Thousands of albatrosses die needlessly every year as the victims of longling fishing. They are attracted to the baited hooks, get caught and are dragged under the water and drown.
Fishermen are often unaware of the simple, cost effective techniques that when used rapidly reduce albatross deaths.
In 2005, along with a number of our BirdLife International partners, the Albatross Task Force was formed. These men and women are the world's first international team of skilled, at-sea instructors.
Since their formation, there have been a dramatic reduction in the numbers of albatross and other seabirds killed. This is a sure sign that Albatross Task Force members really are getting something practical done to help save albatrosses from extinction.
This blog follows the trials and tribulations of the Albatross Task Force as they work onshore and at sea, spreading the message about these life-saving techniques.
The last couple of months have involved a lot of change for me personally and for the ATF team as a whole. With new people coming on-board and regulations changing in the countries we work in, exciting times lie ahead and we want to share it all with you!
I thought that introducing myself on here would be appropriate, since this blog has been part of the ATF story since the project was first launched in South Africa in 2006. Although a lot has happened in these 12 years, the main objective of the ATF still remains to reduce the bycatch of albatross and petrels in fisheries and ultimately improve the conservation status of threatened seabirds.
Today the ATF team is spread across 5 countries in South America and southern Africa, working to help develop and implement suitable bycatch mitigation measures for different fisheries. By doing so, our team of passionate and knowledgeable ATF instructors do the incredible work of bridging the gap between emerging science and people working at sea.
I joined the ATF as Project Officer at the end of February and let me tell you, it has been a steep learning curve ever since! Before I knew it, I was on my way to the 5th ATF Instructor Workshop in Argentina. There I had the privilege of getting to know the inspiring men and women working on-board boats to help save these magnificent seabirds from a needless death!
Image: ATF instructors from South Africa, Namibia, Argentina, Chile and Brazil at ATF Instructor workshop in Mar del Plata, March 2018.
After many years of hard work, regulations to protect seabirds in fisheries have now been introduced in many of the countries we work in. Legislative changes provide a good platform to ensure the long-term sustainability of bycatch reductions into the future – so this is a very exciting time for me to be joining the project!
I could really feel the energy buzzing off the ATF team members in Argentina, just months before the use of bird scaring lines became compulsory on trawlers there - saving an estimated 10 000 black-browed albatrosses every year!
But there is still a lot of work to be done! Soon, the ATF team in Brazil will be conducting at-sea trials with Hookpods to investigate this new mitigation measure’s effect on seabird and turtle bycatch rates in longline fisheries. This is something I myself feel very passionately about, since I was involved in projects aimed at mitigating turtle bycatch in fisheries in Brazil before joining the RSPB.
Having been in post for a few months, I am certain good things are coming our way and can’t wait to see which conservation success we will get to celebrate together next! Watch this space to find out more about what we are doing on our journey to help save the albatross!
Happy World Oceans Day!
Nina da Rocha, ATF Project Officer