If you have visited our blog before, you will probably have heard about our famous Albatross Task Force by now. The international team of seabird bycatch mitigation instructors work in some of the world’s albatross hotspots to support the use of seabird bycatch mitigation measures in fisheries. In Namibia, the team have helped reduce seabird bycatch rates by 98.4% in local demersal longline fisheries! So, what is it like to work as part of the Albatross Task Force in Namibia? We caught up with Ndamononghenda Mateus, a PhD student who recently worked as a Support Officer for the Albatross Task Force, to find out.
What did your role as a Support Officer with the Albatross Task Force involve?
I recently worked as a bycatch mitigation support officer for the Albatross Task Force (ATF) Project, which is a collaboration between BirdLife International and the RSPB and managed by the Namibia Nature Foundation here in Namibia. My role involved working with fishers in the Namibian ports and at-sea to reduce seabird bycatch in demersal hake trawlers and on longline vessels. Specifically, I gathered data on seabird bycatch, conducted mitigation research and experiments, and engaged with fishermen onboard fishing vessels about seabird conservation issues. I also facilitated workshops aimed at teaching fishing industry stakeholders about an ecosystem approach to fisheries and ran youth outreach programs to increase ocean literacy.
Wow, that’s an impressive role! How did you get involved with the ATF?
I applied to be an ATF seabird bycatch mitigation support officer in 2021 while completing my MSc on benthic invertebrate bycatch. I was fortunate to be hired at just the right time. My passion for marine conservation grew from this work and I was able to practice it through monitoring seabird bycatch and advocating for ocean literacy.
What did you like best about your role with the ATF?
I was able to work in an environment that not many are exposed to, especially women, the marine environment. Working on a commercial fishing vessel is a male dominated environment, and I was usually the only female on board. It is encouraging for women to know they can achieve more, and the ATF offers many opportunities to women in the marine industry, including the Meme Itumbapo women’s group that builds the bird-scaring (tori) lines for the fishing vessels in Namibia and early career scientists like me.
What has been one of your proudest achievements to date?
It has been great to be part of a team that has worked hard to reduce seabird bycatch in the Namibian demersal longline fishery by 98%. I am also proud to be a woman scientist in the maritime sector.
We must ask; do you have a favourite species of Albatross?
The Shy Albatross, it’s just a unique bird and appears so graceful with its dark eyebrow and pale-grey face.
A great choice, and do you have a top seabird sighting?
I am yet to sight my top seabird, but I am absolutely hooked (no pun intended), with the Wandering Albatross – I’m looking forward to seeing one.
What do you hope to see happen over the next year?
I hope to see a reduction in seabird bycatch in all our fishing fleets. I also hope for the ATF to develop more outreach programs that promote ocean literacy and advocate for reducing seabird bycatch.
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