World Albatross Day 2020 - In case you missed it
You may have seen us mention that it was the FIRST EVER WORLD ALBATROSS DAY on the 19th June this year! To say we were excited is a big wandering-albatross-sized understatement and it seems we weren’t alone! But if you’ve just joined us, or recently emerged from your lock-down burrow, here is everything you need to know about this year’s World Albatross Day!
In the early 2000’s, the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) was signed. 13 parties from around the world committed to striving to conserve these birds through international cooperation, coordination and mitigation of threats. In May 2019 the ACAP declared a continuing crisis, as thousands of albatross, petrels and shearwaters are still dying each year from fishing activities. It was decided that a national day to celebrate and raise awareness for this threatened group of seabirds was essential, and so World Albatross Day began on the 19th June 2020. You can learn more about what the RSPB has been doing as part of this mission here. In the run up to World Albatross Day (or WAD for short), we were treated to daily talks from some of the leading experts in albatross conservation. Speakers from the Albatross Task Force, RSPB, BirdLife International, British Antarctic Survey and the fishing industry joined us to explain some of the biggest threats facing almost all 22 albatross species. They spoke to us about studies that are helping to understand their population patterns and movements and importantly what we can all do to help one of the most endangered groups of birds in the world.
On WAD itself almost 100 of you joined the conversation. We had a live Q&A video call with our star speakers, you all brought excellent questions to quiz their brains and learn more about their work. Whether it was how tuna purchasing companies can affect seabird bycatch, or what everyone’s favourite albatross is (a very tricky question indeed!). We summed up a few of these questions and answers below:
Evaline (age 7): What is it like to be up close to an albatross?
Andrea Angel - ATF Team Leader South Africa, BirdLife: “I would say it is the most amazing experience - spending a year on Gough Island was life changing and transformative. My enduring memory of albatrosses is being awestruck as I watched them glide, soundlessly overhead so completely in their element and then, clumsily waddle their way to feed their chick. It was the most humbling experience and I was hooked. The bond that they have with their chicks is unbelievable and when they come together with their mate, spending 15 minutes just grooming each other, it is just breathtaking.”
Oli: Yasuko, in your talk you mentioned you were working with tuna purchasing companies in japan, how can working with these companies help stop albatross bycatch?
Yasuko Suzuki - Marine Programme Officer, BirdLife: There are certain regulations that are already in place for fishing vessels to use mitigation measures but not all vessels are using them. By bringing in tuna purchasing companies, who are big clients for these fisheries, it would apply an additional pressure for vessels to use these bycatch mitigation measures and would continue to raise awareness.
Grant: What are the gaps in our knowledge, particularly in the distribution of species?
Maria Dias - Marine Science Coordinator, BirdLife: “We actually have tracking data from all albatross species which is very impressive. This really helps us as before we didn’t know what they did when they went out to sea. There are gaps, however, in the immature and juvenile stages of their life cycle as it is more difficult to track them. Many albatross juveniles head out to sea for several years so you have to use different GPS devices in order to retrieve the data.” [modern technology is helping with that]
Caitlin Franklin - PhD Student, British Antarctic Survey: “Juveniles seem to be doing different things than adults which is why it is crucial to understand their movements. They could be overlapping with different fishing vessels and are therefore more at risk than adults from bycatch. This is seemingly the case with grey headed albatross from the data retrieved from tracking devices so far.”
For the full Q&A, you can watch it here!
So where do we go from here (other than counting down the days to the next World Albatross Day)? Well the fight for albatross is not over, but you don’t have to spend a week travelling by boat to some far removed, isolated island in the South Atlantic to be a part of this mission.
- Sustainable shopping! Check the packaging the next time you’re in the supermarket to try and buy from fisheries using bycatch mitigation methods like Argos Froyanes.
- Phone a friend! Spread the word about albatross: their incredible migrations, their parental dedication and how we all have a part to play in their success
- Donate! Become a friend of the albatross and donate to help replicate the 99% reduction in seabird bycatch, achieved in South Africa, worldwide.
Thanks again to all of our speakers and to all of you for your questions. If you have anymore or want to follow the lives of albatrosses in South Georgia, reach out to us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter! #AlbatrossStories