Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys, in flight Southern Ocean nr South Georgia

Saving albatrosses

Albatrosses are among the world’s biggest birds, with a wing span up to three and a half metres!

Why do albatrosses need help?

Albatrosses are very beautiful birds which live in the southern oceans around Australia and South Africa. Unfortunately, they could become extinct because of the way people catch fish. 

Every year, 100,000 albatrosses are killed by very long fishing lines, called ‘longlines’. These are used by fishermen who hunt tuna and other fish.

The lines are up to 80 miles long – that’s the distance of three marathons! There are thousands of hooks on each line. The birds are attracted to the bait on these hooks. Then they are dragged under the water and drown.

Six countries have said they’ll try to stop this happening by agreeing to a new set of rules about how they fish.

This includes the UK Government, as the UK owns islands and looks after the seas in some of the places where albatrosses live.

Black browed albatross

What can we do to help them?

There are ways of stopping so many birds being caught on the lines. Weights on the lines can make them sink below the surface so the birds can’t see the bait. Bright streamers fluttering above the water frighten the birds off. 

Fishermen must do these things when they are in the seas owned by one of the countries that have promised to help albatrosses. 

The countries trying to help will also have to protect any islands they own where the birds breed. If they have put these measures in place for these seas, they will be in place wherever the fishermen go.

In early 2004, lots of people signed a petition organized by Forest and Bird, BirdLife’s New Zealand partner, to help to stop more albatrosses being drowned.

In 2014 we were able to announce that thanks to the efforts of our Albatross Task Force, the number of albatross killed by long-lines near South Africa has dropped by 99 per cent! There is still work to be done in other countries, but this amazing success shows what is possible when we work with fishermen. 

Turn the tide with the Albatross Task Force

Interview with the RSPB’s Oli Yates

For 10 years, the Albatross Task Force (ATF) has been working in eight different countries, taking to the oceans in the name of scientific research, tackling 10 of the most deadly fisheries for albatrosses in the world.

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The Albatross Task Force

Black-browed albatross Thalassarche melanophrys, close up of head, Bird Island, South Georgia, South Atlantic
Learn more about a special task force and their work to save the albatross!