In my most recent trip to sea, we set off for a period of eleven days from the port of La Paloma, located on the east coast of Uruguay. We had already partaken in various trips on this vessel, and so the crew already knew us well and they were happy to collaborate with our work again. We now have a much greater sense of confidence from the industry than when we initiated the  experimental work.

The fishing was satisfactory, with an acceptable amount of tuna and with environmental conditions that, despite the constant winds, were not too extreme.

The amount of seabirds during the trip was quite normal, with hundreds of birds around the vessel, but the variation was interesting as a total of 23 species were present during the fishing operations including some uncommon species such as the sooty albatross Phoebetria fusca.

During the trip we continued testing the practical use and effectiveness of the tori line, as we have been doing for some time now to gather sufficient data to show that the mitigation does not only reduce seabird bycatch but can also be implemented without negatively affecting the daily routine aboard (deploying the hook line during the set).

This image shows the start of setting operations from the aft of a Uruguayan longline vessel. The tori line can be seen deployed to the left.

We completed a total of eight sets during the trip, four with a tori line and four without. We also conducted line weighting experiments, using Time Depth Recorders to measure the sink rate of the fishing gear to see how long it takes to them to reach a depth beyond the reach of the albatross.

An important aspect of both experiments was that the work was conducted onboard a commercial fishing vessel, with all the difficulties that that entails. This helps show that the results are representative in the context of daily fishing routines and conditions.

Furthermore, we were able to achieve positive advances in the awareness of the crew regarding the work we are performing aboard in Uruguay. Since we began, we can now recognise that the crew are familiar with some of the vulnerable seabird species around the vessels, they have become interested enough to ask questions about one or another of the species and give their opinions about how we may improve the tori line and the method used to set and haul this mitigation measure – opinions that are sometimes extremely insightful as they have the most accurate and detailed knowledge of the vessel operations through their daily work at-sea.

Beyond the experimental work, the sailors in Uruguay today are aware of the seabird situation and known that their collaboration is an important and necessary aspect of seabird conservation. Thanks to the South Atlantic Bulletin that we distribute regularly, the general public and industry are also aware of our work to save the albatross. 

This image shows a Wandering albatross at sea, one of many birds from this species that visit the waters off Uruguay at this time of year.