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.
Sharing our love of nature and marine conservation
For the past two years I have been teaching schoolchildren in Mar del Plata (Argentina) about albatrosses and petrels. I am always touched by the enthusiasm and astonishment in the faces of the girls and boys who participate in these learning...Posted 30 Jan 2019 by Nina da Rocha
New life on Bird Island this Christmas
The wandering albatross breeding season on Bird Island (South Georgia) has officially begun, with the first egg being laid last week! The bird in question has never bred on Bird Island before, but was ringed as a chick there back in 2008. It looks...Posted 19 Dec 2018 by Nina da Rocha
Surviving the high seas aboard a Japanese-South African joint-venture vessel
I recently embarked on a Japanese joint-venture voyage from Cape Town. On-board were six Japanese, 16 Indonesians and a South African. This motley crew was to become my only human connection for the next two months! The South African crew member,...Posted 19 Nov 2018 by Nina da Rocha
Working to reduce seabird and turtle bycatch in Brazil
Bycatch in longline fisheries is a major source of mortality for albatrosses and large petrel species, many of which are already endangered. It is estimated that over 300,000 seabirds are killed by longline fisheries globally every year, as the...Posted 22 Oct 2018 by Nina da Rocha
Finding my Pacific sea legs
Last week I returned from my trip on Abate Molina – a scientific research vessel owned by the Fisheries Development Institute (IFOP) in Chile. Although I have been working with the Albatross Task Force for over ten years, this was the first time I...Posted 10 Sep 2018 by Nina da Rocha
A new wave of collaboration for ATF teams in South America
This austral winter has brought positive change for the ATF teams working to reduce seabird bycatch in South America. In Argentina and Chile we have been working hard to put together a collaborative conservation effort to help save vulnerable...Posted 15 Aug 2018 by Nina da Rocha
Issue 14 August 2018 PDF, 4MBSea Change: BirdLife International’s Marine Programme newsletter
PDF, 1.3MBAlbatross Task Force Annual Report 2018