Our work in the ATF generally brings us into close contact with the community, without which we would not be able to explain the phenomenon of seabird bycatch and our mission to reduce the impact on vulnerable species (see here for an example).
During these activities we always share our experiences with the audience, highlighting that we are a small team locally but that we form part of an international effort to save the albatross.
It is important sometimes to stop and think about how our efforts reflect what is happening in the other ATF teams around the world, and how that can be shared amongst the teams to support the global campaign.
An important aspect in achieving this has been the development of a platform that integrates the three Pacific teams, the South Pacific Bulletin (Boletín Pacifico Sur in Spanish).
Below: The South Pacific Bulletin is a conservation tool for the entire coast of the South Pacific. This newsletter is distributed within the fishing industry and other groups related with the conservation of seabirds.
The newsletter was originally inspired by the South Atlantic Bulletin, which was the creation of our colleagues in the ATF Uruguay team. The idea is to provide information of the conservation effort conducted by the ATF along the whole South Pacific coast.
In this way, we are able to explain the complexities of seabird mortality and the cause of the interactions along with complementary reports of other fauna related to fisheries bycatch, such as sharks and turtles. Moreover, the participation between the three Pacific teams is a really gratifying part of elaborating the bulletin.
The bulletin has benefited from the important participation of the ATF Ecuador team describing the emblematic Waved albatross and in the next edition we are pleased to include articles from our colleagues in Peru about the marine conservation efforts they are performing through the ATF.
Below: Representatives of the community in Talcahuano, Chile having received copies of the South Pacific Bulletin.
Thanks to the production of the bulletin, we have been able to show a connection between the three Pacific ATF teams, which represents an important platform to disseminate the work of the ATF. The most important factor is getting the message that simple and economic solutions exist to rapidly reduce the interaction between fisheries and seabirds into our local communities.
Just as we have, they will discover the similarities of their situation with other countries along the Pacific coast, which clearly require the continued collaborative effort to help live and interact in a more sustainable way with our natural environment.
In Chile we recently took part in the XXXII Congress of Marine Sciences, organized by the Marine Sciences Society and the University of Magallanes. This annual event brings together all the disciplines related to the ocean, and on this occasion we presented our work with albatross and fisheries.
We gave two presentations, the first at a Biodiversity and Conservation seminar. In this instance, my colleague Cristian Suazo presented "Albatross as indicators of environmental change and human activity in sub-Antarctic waters of Chile" in which he spoke about questions related to albatrosses in the context of climate change, the incidence of seabirds found with ingested hooks that had been discarded from fishing operations and also the consumption of plastics by seabirds.
Cristian highlighted the role of albatrosses as indicators of environmental change in different contexts, such as spatial (foraging) and temporal (historical development of the interaction between birds and human activities).
The second presentation was given within the symposium "Challenges for marine conservation planning in the Southern Cone", organized by the Ministry of Environment (Government of Chile), the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Center for Marine Conservation at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.
This time, the issue we presented was "Death of seabirds in Chilean fisheries: collaboration toward solutions in a regional and global context." This presentation reviewed the context of bycatch at a global and local level, highlighting the work of ATF-Chile in reducing the negative interaction of seabirds with different industrial fishing activities. We also discussed the role of the ATF as a key initiative at driving collaboration at a local, but also global level.
On both occasions the room was full of people, mainly students of careers related to marine science, research and teaching universities, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and government agencies among others. These indicators of attendance and interest reflect the emerging role of conservation actions in Chilean waters.
Thus, ATF-Chile has formed an important role in the scientific community, both in the presentation of research effort at-sea and raising awareness towards the conservation of the fragile marine biodiversity, such as albatrosses and petrels in Chile and beyond.
Below: presenting the work of the ATF in Chile at the Biodiversity and Conservation seminar. Photo: Carlos Silva-Quintas
As an instructor with the Albatross Task Force in Argentina, I embarked for 45 days aboard a pelagic (mid-water) trawl vessel that targets whip-tailed hake, also known as "hoki" (Macruronus magellanicus). The ship sailed from the port city of Ushuaia - at the end of the world!
On this trip I was conducting work related to seabird interactions with fisheries as part of the process towards this fishery obtaining Marine Stewardship Council certification.
One of the peculiarities of this trip was that I went to sea with two friends: John Paul Romanelli and Jorge Mariño who both work as fishery observers. Part of the work was to discuss the mitigation measure options for this type of vessel and assist in the identification of the different species of seabirds.
Both observers were familiar with the methodologies and criteria used for seabird work thanks to previous courses and talks we had given in the past. We were able to spend some time together practising the collection of morphometric measurements of some albatrosses that were caught during the trip.
Below: Nahuel takes morphometric measurements of an albatross on board a trawl vessel in Argentina
It was enjoyable to share this trip with friends, despite sharing a small cabin and seeing each other all the time for 45 days. We managed by respecting each other’s space and helping each other out. It made for a different experience to the usual trips where typically only a single observer is on board.
For me, having company on board helped keep my motivation high when, despite the cold, I had to return to the platform 8 metres above sea level where I would conduct observations of the fishing operation and interactions amidst strong winds, snow, hail and rain; hostile conditions that are typical of these high latitude seas.
I am pleased to report that both observers and crew members came to the end of their trip with a broader knowledge of seabird conservation and the importance of collaborating to implement mitigation measures and correctly record species that interact with these vessels. I was proud of the work we completed when a sailor came to ask me if he had identified an albatross correctly.
Such was the level of enthusiasm amongst the crew that they actively participated in the talks that I gave on board. They later announced that they "felt they must continue to work and care for these critters." It was very gratifying to share so much time with all these people. As this was our first trip on a pelagic trawler, many of the crew had no idea the "albatross saviours ", as we were known, existed at all.
Below: Nahuel gives an educational briefing on seabird conservation
The best part was the large quantity and variety of questions I received. As I said, this was a new journey for me and quite different from most trips. There were days when I wanted to get away even if it meant swimming ashore, but upon arriving in port I felt nostalgia and a desire to spend more time with the people I had met - people who will now take more care of the albatrosses. It is always worth conducting a long trip as it gives you more time and opportunities to achieve our main objectives and always generates some experiences to take home.
Editors’ note: Nahuel completed his trip on the 21st December 2012 and on the 29th was married to his partner Valeria. His companion at sea, John Paul Romanelli, was his witness at the wedding!
Congratulations Nahuel and Valeria from all the ATF!!
Hi everybody! Last month I returned from my last trip at-sea here in southern Brazil, on board a pelagic longliner. The cruise was amazing, and in addition to the success in obtaining data on our mitigation measure research, I experienced incredible and magic moments.
The fishing area was the continental slope in the southernmost part of Brazil, just adjacent to Uruguayan waters, between 300-100 m deep. The target fish species for the trip were tunas. We conducted eight longline sets (four with tori lines and four without) during which were deployed a total of 6,180 hooks (between 500 and 1,210 hooks per set).
Fortunately there were no seabirds caught during this trip, even during a daylight set without the tori line! My impression was that it was due, in part, to the low seabird abundance - less than 20 birds per set - and to the fact that the other tree sets without a tori line were performed at night. This minimizes the chances of bycatch.
However, another detail may also have contributed to the low seabird bycatch: the way the bait was hooked. On this vessel the crew prepare the hooks depending on the bait. This includes attaching bait to the hook by inserting the barb through:
Therefore, instead of taking the entire hook with the bait, the birds were able to remove the baits from the hooks without becoming snared themselves.
During this daylight set without the tori line I watched several seabirds taking baited hooks, hoping none was captured, and to my great relief, all the birds managed to steel the bait without becoming hooked.
Below: Observing the daylight set from the aft-deck
Despite this interesting observation, the way bait is hooked should not be interpreted as a mitigation measure. It’s important to clarify that the mitigation measures must keep the seabirds away from the baited hooks in the first place!
During this cruise I also collected more data comparing sink rate of baited hooks under different configuration of fishing lines, and the presence or absence of battery-powered fishing lights.
All of this was carried out in some extreme weather that we have become used to experiencing during our fishing trips. One day the weather was so good I was able to jump in and snorkel around the vessel (don’t try this at home!). To my surprise a pod of common dolphins appeared, swimming with me around the vessel. Three days later we were facing a storm with 100 km/h winds and 8-9 m waves (Beaufort 10).
Below: A storm rages at-sea in Brazil
Three days later the storm had subsided and the sun returned with the sea like a mirror. For me, snorkelling in the deep blue among 50 common dolphins was one of the most exciting experiences I've had aboard, highlighted only by the beauty of a powerful storm in the south west Atlantic!
Below: Dolphins accompanying the fishing vessel
ProDelphinus observer Sergio explains how he got on during his most recent trip from Mancora, in northern Peru:
At 7 o'clock in the evening, on the way to Mancora a local friend Braulio introduced me Mr. Carlos "Cumbia" Castillo who would be my captain on this trip. He said to me he was doubtful about going fishing because bait was scarce, however, he had an informal solution: taking bait from another boat which wasn't going to head out to sea. And so it was. We agreed to meet at the square at 11 pm. I had enough time to rest before going out on this great experience.
After I quickly prepared my bag, I went to the square. It was midnight, and with all the crew accounted for, we began loading the longline gear in 9 crates and fuel for the engine on a raft. Because it was a dark night it was easier for Cumbia to collect the bait from the other boat. Everything started very well, now they had to prepare each of the 1,700 hooks with the bait (Brevoortia maculata "machete"). I observed how the bait was prepared: the fish were filleted, while the viscera and bones were discarded into the sea. This work is very important because fishing success depends upon it.
Everything prepared, we departed from the port at 03:30 in the morning under light rain. After approximately an hour and a half, we reached the fishing grounds where the longline would be set. Still dark, I saw shadows of birds flying over the boat. As the rain fell the crew set the hooks one by one, all 9 crates.
They do this carefully so that the gear does not get entangled. Once they finished we took a short break. We waited almost half an hour as we sailed back to the beginning of the line when, in the distance, we saw the surface buoy that marks longline. We followed it and began hauling in the gear.
The haul started with good news: on the first few hooks, the first Peruvian hake (Merluccius gayi peruanus) were big. It was then that I spotted the first seabirds arriving; Pelicans (Peruvian Pelican (Pelecanus thagus), brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)), boobies (Blue-footed booby (Sula nebouxii), Peruvian booby (Sula variegate)) and grey-hooded gulls (Chroicocephalus cirrocephalus). All fairly common, so no real excitement.
The fishermen hauled pejes (Caulolatilus sp.), red conger (Brotula clarkae), scorpion fish (Scorpaena russola), and some eels (Muraena sp.) also called “snakes” because they are not good for fishing and damage hooks.
After a moment, I saw a seabird that was different from the others - it was black with a white chest, yellowish beak, and pink feet, flying closer to the boat. It was a pink-footed shearwater (Puffinus creatopus). It arrived accompanied by two sooty shearwaters (Puffinus griseus) which took advantage of the fish discards the fishermen left.
Below: A Waved albatross flying by, contrasted in size and shape by the smaller Pink-footed shearwater and Sooty shearwater.
At 7:35 in the morning, I was lucky to see a big and majestic seabird with a yellow beak, white head and black body: a waved albatross (Phoebastria irrorata) in the distance, which was also competing with the other seabirds like magnificent frigatebirds (Fregata magnifiecens) for fishing discards. The moment lasted less than a blink of an eye but it seemed much longer. They are such beautiful seabirds.
The fishers told me they not only share their work with seabirds, but also with sea lions which sometimes are very annoying as they eat the fish directly off the line. On this trip I only saw one sea lion and it didn't disturb us at all.
After hauling in all the gear we returned to the port of Los Órganos where Cumbia and his crew decided to offload the days’ catch. We arrived at 10:45 in the morning with a good fish catch, good data and a great experience.
I said goodbye to the fishermen, hoping to return and continue taking more data.