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.
For this blog I am posting on behalf of my friend and colleague Rodrigo Forselledo:
Rodrigo wrote the following:
As Sebastian is enjoying a short period in the UK, I have taken on his ATF duties in Uruguay. On my first pelagic longline trip I started testing the new design of the bird-scaring line which we have developed to shift from one side of the vessel to the other as Martin mentioned in his recent blog. Testing the effectiveness of this new design is one of the goals our team has in 2012.
Testing this system was a great responsibility for me but gladly I have had plenty of previous experience at-sea on these vessels so I was happy to take on the challenge. I have been collaborating with the ATF team for the past four years, during which time we have spent time together on board the Uruguayan research vessel Aldebaran. On that trip, we worked on seabird ID and behaviour, amongst other duties.
Prior to departure, I discussed the modified design with the ship's captain and the boatswain. We noticed that the only place that could serve as an attachment point for the bird-scaring line was too far aft, so right there and then we devised an alternative design that better suited the vessel structure. Each vessel is unique after all and an important part of our work is adjusting generic mitigation designs to suit individual vessels.
This trip only lasted for six days during which we set four fishing lines. Then they had to return to port for several days due to very bad weather conditions (quite common in these areas). Well, of the four lines we managed to set, there were no entanglement or breakages which is a great result as it shows the new system is working well. We also had the opportunity to change the boat heading during the sets to really test our new system, passing the bird-scaring line from starboard to port during fishing operations.
The operation worked well, moving the bird-scaring line over the fishing line as it was being deployed and over one of the buoys without becoming entangled.
However, we did find the system was extremely laborious because it took two of the crew to change the line from one side of the vessel to the other manually. Because of the difficulty involved in the system we gave some more thought to how it could be improved. The skipper agreed to make some simple structural modifications to the attachment point at the vessel stern. We adapted the system accordingly to make it an easier process. Collaboration like this really helps make mitigation as efficient as possible and is a really positive factor. The inclusion of the captain and crew in mitigation design and practical use is an important part of the awareness and education work that the ATF in Uruguay has been performing on board vessels of this fishing fleet for a long time now.
Below: The Uruguayan bird-scaring line doing it's job at-sea in the South-west Atlantic