South American fishermen help to save seabirds
South America is blessed with one of the world's most charismatic birds - one which sadly is in danger of disappearing forever. "Modern fishing methods are accidentally killing around 100,000 albatrosses globally every year - that's one every five minutes", said Dr Ben Sullivan - BirdLife's Global Seabird Programme Coordinator. However, South American fishermen are working alongside BirdLife staff to help save their favourite of birds, and early results of their united efforts are capturing global attention.
"We love to watch albatrosses when we're out at sea", said Jorge Rivera Vergara, captain of the longline vessel Tami II of fishing company Pesquera Omega in Coquimbo, Chile. "It's amazing to think these birds fly round the world for thousands of miles without landing and have wingspan of over three meters".
Sadly, 18 of the world's 22 albatross species are facing extinction, with four of those species being classified as Critically Endangered according to BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN. In longline fisheries albatrosses die when they try to steal fish bait from hooks; in trawl fisheries they are killed when they birds collide with the fishing gear whilst trying to collect discarded fish.
“We spend a great deal of time with fishermen showing them ways to prevent the birds from getting hooked” —Oliver Yates, BirdLife’s Albatross Task Force Coordinator
"The good news is that we have some simple and cost-effective measures that fishermen are increasingly using which are saving the lives of thousands of albatrosses in South America", said Dr Esteban Frere of BirdLife's Global Seabird Programme. Where the simple measures are being used, the results in South America are impressive. For example:
- In the south of Chile, the incidental capture of seabirds was reduced from over 1,500 birds in one year to zero through the adoption of modified fishing gear
- In Argentina the use of mitigation in the trawl fishery has shown that it is possible to reduce seabird mortality to close to zero
- In Brazil the voluntary adoption of simple bird-scaring lines has helped reduce incidental capture of seabirds by 56%
"We've been contacted from all over the globe by people who have heard about the success of fishermen in South America who have been using our simple and cost-effective methods to save seabirds", said Oliver Yates - BirdLife's Albatross Task Force Coordinator.
The key to the success is how BirdLife's Albatross Task Force (ATF) works alongside fishermen to understand the problem and to work out simple solutions. The ATF is the first international scheme to place specialised instructors on fishing vessels to reduce the number of seabirds killed accidentally in fishing industries.
“We are so happy to have simple and cheap methods which keep albatrosses of the hook” —Jorge Rivera Vergara, Captain of longline vessel Tami II
The ATF works in seven priority countries - including Ecudor, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil - where albatrosses are known to die in hugely unsustainable numbers in longline and trawl fisheries.
"We understand that in order to continue fishing we must avoid killing seabirds, and are so happy to have simple and cheap methods which keep albatrosses of the hook", concluded Jorge Rivera Vergara.
To explain the various simple, cost-effective methods to prevent albatrosses and other seabirds from getting accidentally killed, the ATF have produced a new leaflet in Spanish which is available free of charge by clicking here.
Credits: Global Seabird Programme