Black browed albatross Thalassarche melanophrys, West Point Island, Falklands

Off the hook

Argentina becomes the latest country to announce regulations to save seabirds.

Changes in Argentina

The fish-rich waters off the coast of Argentina are a vital resource for both seabirds and fishermen, but man and bird have long been locked in conflict there – with an estimated average of 13,500 black-browed albatross killed here as bycatch each year.

However, following years of lobbying work by the Albatross Task Force (ATF), regulations have been announced by the Argentinian government… and it is now becoming law for trawlers to use bird-scaring lines, which scare birds away from danger zones around the boats.

 Albatross Task Force instructor Meidad Goren observes while longline fishing gear is being deployed.

Tackling the problem since 2006

ATF instructors across the globe having been working directly with local communities in an effort to change this; and it is paying off. "We've been working for a long time to see these regulations introduced" said Stephanie Winnard, Project Officer.

"Our work in Argentina has highlighted the huge numbers of birds being killed as bycatch and has also proved, through experimental trials, that bird-scaring lines drastically reduce this. The announcement that bird-scaring lines will become mandatory is a massive step towards saving many seabirds."

The new regulations will continue to be voluntary up until 1 May 2018, when they will become law. Until then, the ATF will continue to work with the industry to ensure that companies have the lines and understand how to use them, encouraging them to adopt the lines by choice before they become law.

After May 2018, the Argentinian government will enforce the new laws.

Albatross Task Force instructor Meidad Goren from Cape Town assembling a tori or streamer line. The streamers made of flourescent tubing are suspened from the lines, creating a barrier to deter albatrosses from approaching fishing vessels too closely.

What's next?

"In January we met with the Fisheries Observer Agency, who monitor fish caught in Argentina – during which we stressed the importance of observers checking for seabirds being killed," says Stephanie.

"The future sustainability of seabird bycatch reductions lies with countries monitoring bycatch in their own fisheries. The ATF project will come to an end and by then we need to ensure countries have the skills and ability to continue saving seabirds.” She continues, “We expect to see further reductions in seabird deaths in the future, but we couldn’t do this vital work without the RSPB members. Our core costs (mainly staff fees) are paid for by the funds we receive from the RSPB."

Black browed albatross Thalassarche melanophrys, West Point Island, Falklands.

Save the albatross

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

Help us fund the global campaign to save the albatross. You'll help pay for tori lines, up to the minute data recording equipment and sea safety gear that will keep the men and women of the Task Force safe and able to do their job.