Albatross flying above a stormy grey sea with crashing waves

The Albatross Task Force

Albatrosses are facing extinction, with deaths in fishing gear a major threat. The Albatross Task Force is working with the industry to put simple techniques in place to change that.

Albatrosses Face Extinction

Fisherman on a boat removing a wire from a bycatch affected albatross

Albatrosses are large majestic birds who spend much of their time soaring over the high seas. But this nomadic life out on the ocean brings them into contact with fishing vessels where they are often accidentally killed by fishing gear, known as bycatch. This has led to catastrophic declines in their populations: 15 of the 22 albatross species are now threatened with extinction.

Albatross Task Force

Our mission is to slash seabird bycatch by 80% in the deadliest fisheries for albatrosses. The Albatross Task Force is an international team of experts, led by the RSPB and BirdLife International, that works with fishing crews to demonstrate simple ways to stop killing seabirds. Dramatic change is possible. For example, there has been a 99% drop in albatross deaths in the South African trawl fishery since our team started work there in 2006.

Why is this happening?

Albatrosses mainly feed on squid and fish on the surface of the water, which they can smell up to 12 miles away. Searching for bait or discarded fish around fishing vessels mirrors their natural behaviour. Sadly many become accidentally caught on baited hooks and drown or are fatally struck by trawl cables towing nets through the water. This is the largest threat albatrosses face globally.

How to stop seabirds being killed

Large number of albatrosses at sea avoiding the red scaring lines behind a boat

Simple and cheap measures are highly effective at preventing seabird deaths in trawl and longline fisheries:

  • Bird-scaring lines (or tori lines) have colourful streamers to frighten away birds from baited hooks and harmful trawl cables.
  • Fishing at night prevents deaths since most seabirds don’t feed in the dark.
  • Adding weights to longlines makes baited hooks sink faster. This means less time for seabirds to attack the baits and get caught.

 

Download the Towards Seabird-Safe Fisheries (13MB) leaflet for more information on our work to develop new measures and improve existing ones.

 

The Albatross Task Force forms part of the BirdLife International Marine Programme, which is hosted by the RSPB. Find out more about the wider work of the programme here.

Extra resources