Marine - Americas

Black-browed albatross.
Black-browed Albatross. Photo: Don R Faulkner

BirdLife’s Albatross Task Force in the Americas

All 22 of the world’s albatross species are of conservation concern, either Near Threatened or globally threatened. Five are considered Endangered, and three Critically Endangered.

The primary cause of the recent precipitous declines in albatross populations is fatal interactions with large-scale industrial fisheries. In longline fisheries, albatrosses (and other seabirds) are hooked and drowned when they attempt to take the bait. In trawl fisheries they collide with cables and other gear when trying to retrieve discarded fish. BirdLife estimates that 100,000 albatrosses are killed like this every year - one bird every five minutes.

BirdLife has worked with fishing fleets and with regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) around the world to devise simple and inexpensive ways of reducing seabird “bycatch”.  The Albatross Task Force (ATF) works with fishing fleets around the coasts of South America and southern Africa to help the crews adopt these techniques which (thanks to BirdLife’s lobbying efforts) are increasingly required by RFMOs. Avoiding bycatch has advantages for fishermen too -with fewer birds “stealing” bait, and hooks set in a less haphazard way, catches can increase. 

Among other countries, the ATF works in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Uruguay

 • In Chile, the pelagic longline swordfish fishery uses a suite of three best-practice measures, and seabird bycatch is minimal. In southern Chile, bycatch was reduced from over 1500 birds to zero in one year through the adoption of modified fishing gear.

• In Argentina, mitigation measures in the trawl fishery have shown it is possible to reduce seabird mortality to close to zero.

 • In Brazil, around 50% of the Santos and Itajai fleets are already voluntarily using mitigation measures. Back in April 2011, new fishery regulations based on ATF research results made mitigation measures compulsory across the longline fishery. Earlier voluntary adoption of simple “bird-scaring” lines by some fleets reduced seabird bycatch by 56%.