A campaign to raise awareness amongst boaters, fishermen and the general public to save the albatross is gaining momentum
100,000 albatrosses a year – approximately one every five minutes – drown when taking bait from hooks suspended on longlines up to 130km long. As a result, 19 of the world’s 21 species of albatross are now threatened with global extinction.
These dramatic figures, put together by the RSPB, are intended to make people sit up and take notice of the worrying fate of a bird which has a place in the hearts of people all over the world.
The RSPB are aiming to place trained people on longline fishing vessels to show the crews simple and practical techniques to prevent seabird deaths. Hanging streamers near fishing lines to scare birds away, and weighting lines to make hooks sink more quickly are simple techniques which can be employed, and which will lessen the numbers which are killed at sea.
Sir David Attenborough, Vice President of the RSPB, said; ‘Albatrosses have survived in the harshest marine environments for 50 million years; more than 100 times longer than our own species. However, these magnificent birds are unable to cope with man-made threats such as long line fishing.’
Europeans saw their first albatrosses only 500 years ago in the Southern Ocean, but in our fleeting overlap with these birds we are threatening so many of them with extinction.
Sir David has felt a connection to the birds ever since he sat ‘eyeball to eyeball’ with a wandering albatross and its chick on the remote south Atlantic island of South Georgia. He added: ‘My personal concern for the future of these majestic birds is echoed by millions of other people across the world – many of whom may never be lucky enough to see an albatross. Like me, they care passionately that these ancient mariners should be given a fighting chance to spread their wings and enjoy another 50 million years.’