Prince of Wales to hear about Albatross Task Force success
Tonight at a Clarence House reception, The Prince of Wales, will hear that many species of seabird – particularly 18 of the world’s 22 species of albatross threatened with extinction - have a brighter future thanks to a pioneering scheme uniting conservationists, the fishing industry and the South African government.
The Prince of Wales - who has long been concerned about the dramatic decline of the albatross - will hear that for every 100 albatrosses being killed in fisheries in South African waters in 2006, 85 are now being saved thanks to the efforts of the Albatross Task Force working with the government and the fishing industry.
The Albatross Task Force - created by BirdLife International and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) in 2006 - is the first international scheme to place specialised instructors on fishing vessels to reduce the number of seabirds killed accidentally in fishing industries. The task force - first started in South Africa - initially worked with the longline fishing industry – targeting tuna and swordfish – but recently it has been extended to the trawling industry too. There are now ATF instructors in seven countries with globally-important populations of seabirds.
For every 100 albatrosses being killed in fisheries in South African waters in 2006, 85 are now being saved thanks to the efforts of the Albatross Task Force
Dr Ben Sullivan, the BirdLife Global Seabird Programme Coordinator, said: “The success of the task force has been amazing, as the South African fishery impacts on some of the world’s most threatened seabirds. By making such a positive move here, we are now hoping for greater success in other areas, particularly in Namibia and both coasts of South America.”
Permit conditions which came to force in 2008 limited seabird ‘bycatch’ to 25 birds per longline vessel fishing for tuna and swordfish in South African waters. This has caused fishermen to take responsibility for the safety of seabirds while they are fishing.
“Seabirds are attracted to the baited hooks and if they get caught they drown as the line sinks. We spend great deal of time with the fishermen showing them ways to prevent the birds from getting hooked. BirdLife South Africa (BirdLife in South Africa) believes that fishermen can continue to make a living without harming these endangered birds.” says Meidad Goren of BirdLife South Africa’s Albatross Task Force team. “Fishermen now understand that in order to continue fishing they must avoid killing seabirds, and are very cooperative.”
Don Lucas, Chairman of South African Tuna Longline Association [SATLA], has been working closely with the ATF. He says “Only by working together can we achieve the main objective which is to have a sustainable and viable fishery in South Africa. We support the work of Albatross Task Force and encourage our members and fishermen to carry scientists and conduct research onboard fishing vessels to improve mitigation measures.”
Prof Peter Ryan from the Percy FitzPatrick Institute at the University of Cape Town, has been actively engaged in seabird conservation, including fishery bycatch, for more than a decade. “Albatrosses are extremely long-lived, slow-reproducing birds, and their populations cannot withstand the sorts of losses that global longline fishing effort has created. Fishing is the main reason that 18 of 22 species of albatross are threatened with extinction,” he explained.
“The success of the task force has been amazing” —Dr Ben Sullivan, BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme Coordinator
An analysis by BirdLife South Africa of 2008 seabird mortality levels in the foreign tuna longline fleet showed that 153 albatrosses and petrels were reported killed. “This represents a decrease of 85 per cent from 2007 and it is extremely encouraging,” said Meidad Goren.
Dr Ross Wanless, coordinator of the BirdLife Global Seabird Programme in Africa, said “This is a fantastic result and a huge endorsement for the ATF. We have to adopt an ecosystem approach to fisheries, to minimise the impacts of fishing on non-target species, including seabirds. Changing entrenched attitudes and practices is a slow process, but the ATF has shown that by working with government and industry, change is possible.”
Albatross Task Force teams are now working in southern Africa and South America, each team engaging its country’s fisheries in an effort to reduce seabird mortalities. The teams are also conducting scientific investigations to improve the design and performance of various mitigation measures.
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Credits: Global Seabird Programme