The Albatross Task Force
Albatrosses are stunning, long-lived seabirds that spend much of their lives soaring over the ocean. Inevitably, this lifestyle brings them into contact with fishing vessels. Sadly, they’re often accidentally captured in fishing gear (known as bycatch), and this is driving population declines: 15 of the 22 albatross species are now threatened with extinction.
Albatross Task Force
The Albatross Task Force – an international team of seabird bycatch mitigation experts led by the RSPB and BirdLife International – is on a mission to reduce seabird bycatch by 80% in some of the deadliest fisheries for albatrosses.
By working both on board vessels, showing fishing crews simple ways to stop killing seabirds, and with government to implement regulations, we’ve demonstrated that things can drastically change for the better. South Africa has been a shining example of how this is can work, with an astounding 99% reduction in albatross deaths since our team started there in 2006!
With your support, we can save 50,000 seabirds from a needless death every year.
What's the problem?
Albatrosses mainly feed on squid and fish on the surface of the water, so foraging for bait or discarded fish around fishing vessels mirrors their natural behaviour. Sadly, for many it's their last meal.
Trawl vessels discard offal (fish heads and guts) as they process their catch. This attracts albatrosses, which can smell this free meal from 12 miles (20 km) away, bringing them dangerously close to the trawl cables towing the net through the water. As they engage in a feeding frenzy behind the vessel, they can be fatally struck by these cables and dragged under by them.
Albatrosses and other seabirds also scavenge on baited hooks set by longline vessels. This bait is used to target larger fish species, but as it takes some time to sink to its fishing depth, scavenging albatrosses can attack the baits, get caught on the hooks and, ultimately, drown.
Fixing the problem
Simple and inexpensive activities, known as bycatch “mitigation measures” are highly effective in preventing these unintentional deaths in trawl and longline fisheries:
- Bird scaring lines
Bird-scaring lines (also known as tori lines) are lines with colourful streamers that can be towed behind fishing vessels to scare birds away from baited hooks or trawl cables.
- Night setting
Fishing at night can significantly reduce seabird bycatch, since most seabird species don’t actively forage in the dark.
- Line weighting
Adding weights to longlines makes baited hooks sink faster. This reduces the window of opportunity for foraging seabirds to attack the baits and get caught.
Researching new mitigation measures
As well as encouraging fleets to follow these “best practice” mitigation measures, we’re also working with our target fleets to develop new mitigation measures, and troubleshoot problems with existing measures.
Download the Towards Seabird-Safe Fisheries (13 MB) leaflet for more information.
The ATF’s target fleets and the species we’re saving
With your help we can make trawl and longline fisheries safer for seabirds across the world; and we can find new ways of reducing bycatch.
Please donate today to help save the albatross from extinction.
Celebrating World Oceans Day in Namibia
Last weekend saw the towns of Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Henties Bay come together to celebrate World Oceans Day 2019. And there really is a lot to celebrate this year in Namibia – with the ATF team having demonstrated massive bycatch reductions i...Posted 13 Jun 2019 by Nina da Rocha
Bobby has Fledged!
There is big news from Bird Island – Bobby our grey-headed albatross chick has fledged! Bobby was first laid as an egg all the way back in October and he hatched in December. Now Bobby is finally answering the call of the ocean and has left his ho...Posted 24 May 2019 by stephaniewinnard
When one size does not fit all : A new bird-scaring line design for small longline vessels in South Africa
Bird-scaring Lines (BSLs) have become the primary and most commonly prescribed seabird bycatch mitigation measure in longline fisheries worldwide. These are usually composed of a backbone section, colourful streamers and a drag section or towing...Posted 22 May 2019 by Nina da Rocha
“Wandering” about those albatrosses Attenborough was talking about?
I am guessing many of you will have been glued to your screens over the last few weeks, watching the new Our Planet series on Netflix – I certainly have! The highlight for me was of course the gorgeous Wandering Albatross from South Georgia,...Posted 26 Apr 2019 by Nina da Rocha
A new chapter in #AlbatrossStories: The wandering albatross chick has hatched!
Our wandering albatross couple have become proud parents for the tenth time as their chick hatched on the 21 st of March – right on time for its due date! It began pecking its way through the egg on the 19th, and finally made its way out into the...Posted 15 Apr 2019 by stephaniewinnard
Stars are born as the country names our #AlbatrossStories characters
After several weeks of running our naming competition for the albatross on Bird Island and receiving over 200 entries, we have come to some final decisions on the names for four of our albatross stars! We want to thank everyone for your brilliant...Posted 01 Apr 2019 by stephaniewinnard
Issue 14 August 2018 PDF, 4MBSea Change: BirdLife International’s Marine Programme newsletter
PDF, 1.3MBAlbatross Task Force Annual Report 2018