Fishing fleets in Argentina agree to use devices to stop albatross deaths

By Shaun Hurrell, 11 Sep 2014

A major trawl fishery in Argentina has just agreed to start trialling and test-using lines that scare birds away from the fishing equipment that has been causing the accidental death of species like the globally Near-Threatened Black-browed Albatross. This is great news for seabirds and the Albatross Task Force, who have successfully proven that bird-scaring lines would practically eliminate seabird mortality in the fishery.

Albatross Task Force instructor Nahuel Chavez</br>in Argentina preparing a bird-scaring line</br>(Aves Argentinas)

The formal decision, which will positively affect the fate of thousands of albatross per year was announced last night at an international meeting of the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatross and Petrels (ACAP) in Uruguay by the Argentinean delegates. The resolution had received unanimous approval by the Federal Fisheries Council, so over the next six months fishermen on the industrial vessels of the Argentinean factory trawl fleet will be casting bird-scaring lines as well as fishing nets off the back of their boats. If needed, they will refine bird-scaring line designs that will minimise any operational concerns for the crew before the measures become obligatory in the fishery.

The status of the world’s seabirds has deteriorated rapidly over recent decades and several species and many populations are now threatened with extinction. Last information from BirdLife International’s data and assessment for the IUCN Red List reveals that seabirds are now more threatened than any other group of birds. Of the 346 seabird species, 97 (28%) are globally threatened and nearly half of all seabird species are known or suspected to be experiencing population declines. The albatross family is especially imperilled with 15 of the 22 species currently threatened with extinction. One of the main factors that contribute to declining seabird populations is bycatch in longline and trawl fisheries.

The good news is that simple, practical measures exist that rapidly reduce seabird mortality once they are included in daily fishing operations. One of the most widely demonstrated measures for trawl fisheries is the bird-scaring line, which is deployed on either side of the vessel to create a physical barrier between the birds and the trawl cables that tow fishing nets. By preventing birds from colliding with the cables, bird-scaring lines keep birds from being struck and dragged under water. Our Albatross Task Force in South Africa recently won an award for reducing seabird mortality by 90% by using these bird-scaring lines.

In Argentina, the National Plan of Action to reduce seabird bycatch calls for the use of mitigation measures for trawl fisheries that have been tested and proven. The Albatross Task Force in Argentina's main objective is evaluating seabird mortality in different fleets. Through working with fishermen out at sea, they provide evidence and develop mitigation measures to reduce levels of seabird by-catch.

This news is great testament to their work, both out at sea and in governmental policy.

The Albatross Task Force in Argentina, hosted by Aves Argentinas (BirdLife in Argentina) has been working in conjunction with several government entities; the Subsecretaría de Pesca de la Nación, the Subsecretaría de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sustentable, the Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Desarrollo Pesquero and the Universidad de Mar del Plata plus non-governmental organisation Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina.

15 out of 22 species of albatross are threatened with extinction. The main threat to albatrosses is death at the end of a hook on a fishing long-line.

Working closely with BirdLife Partners, we're working to stop the needless slaughter of these amazing birds and bring them back from the brink of extinction.

The Albatross Task Force is an initiative lead by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) for the BirdLife International Partnership.

See the Albatross Task Force at work in our video: