Thousands of albatrosses die needlessly every year as the victims of longling fishing. They are attracted to the baited hooks, get caught and are dragged under the water and drown.
Fishermen are often unaware of the simple, cost effective techniques that when used rapidly reduce albatross deaths.
In 2005, along with a number of our BirdLife International partners, the Albatross Task Force was formed. These men and women are the world's first international team of skilled, at-sea instructors.
Since their formation, there have been a dramatic reduction in the numbers of albatross and other seabirds killed. This is a sure sign that Albatross Task Force members really are getting something practical done to help save albatrosses from extinction.
This blog follows the trials and tribulations of the Albatross Task Force as they work onshore and at sea, spreading the message about these life-saving techniques.
I have just completed my second trip aboard the Maria Marine trawl vessel. It did not take long to reach the fishing grounds, since this vessel usually operates close to the Cape Town coast, South Africa. The weather was near perfect for observation, with mostly sunny days and an average sea-state of three on the Beaufort scale.
As for the crew, they were very accommodating since they knew me from the last trip. So, they were aware of my duties on board as an ATF instructor. This worked in my favour because I had total peace of mind in my duties, helped at times with little reminders of the approximate hauling times and fishing operations. Some of the crew members were interested in the names and identification of the seabirds that are commonly seen during their trawling trips. The skipper asked me about the breeding sites of the albatrosses, which is an indication of how the ATF have managed to create an environment of seabird conservation awareness in this fleet.
I had the pleasure of sharing a cabin with Rudian, a Capfish fisheries observer who is an experienced observer. Although his main task is monitoring the biological fish caught during each trawl, he shared his experiences with me as an observer aboard a fishing vessel during long trips: he frequently remains on board for three to six months. I was impressed by his seabird knowledge, including the significance of using a tori line.