• Back on board with the demersal longline fleet in South Africa

    I recently headed down to Hout Bay, South Africa to join a demersal (bottom) longline fishing vessel in a fishery we have recently begun working with again to improve and update mitigation measures.

    Upon arrival to the harbour I found that the boat that I was supposed to join had already left port and left me behind. This was not through any particular bad intentions, just an unfortunate miscommunication between the…

    • 30 Aug 2014
  • Welcome to Honolulu!

    Crystal clear waters, crisp white sand, and cool shady palm trees are not the first thing that springs to mind when on a deep-sea fishing trawler. But we were in Honolulu, the proverbial paradise we see on TV, “where everything is hunky dory”. That is how my skipper, Manfred, described the fishing grounds we were trawling at. A fishing paradise in the Atlantic, “we always catch nice fish here, big hake. They are beautiful…

    • 15 Aug 2014
  • Maintaining perfect mitigation in South Africa

    On my most recent trip aboard a deep-sea trawler, the weather wasn’t as compassionate as the last one! One night my sleeping bag actually flew off me as we rocked and rolled on the sea like a cork in a bucket! You come up with creative and very unusual sleeping positions to steady yourself as the boat rocks about at night. Your body gets used to this, and sometimes it’s almost fun, like a roller-coaster ride.…

    • 13 Aug 2014
  • Pink-footed sheawater bycatch in Peru’s small-scale gillnet fishery

    Since 2013 Birdlife partners in Ecuador, Peru and Chile have been monitoring small-scale gillnet fleets for evidence of interactions (termed “bycatch”) with pink-footed shearwaters and other seabird species. In Peru there are tens of thousands of small-scale fishermen operating from over 10,000 vessels along the coast. The most common fishing gear they use is gillnets, often set drifting overnight at the ocean surface…

    • 29 Jul 2014
  • Demonstrating seabird bycatch mitigation measures in Namibia

    I recently conducted more on board demonstrations on how to use seabird bycatch mitigation measures in longline and trawl fisheries in Namibia. We are working in partnership with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and the fishing Industry to create awareness of the available solutions through training workshops, at sea demonstrations and fishery monitoring. By doing so, the introduction of conservation measures…

    • 25 Jul 2014
  • Environmental awareness in Chilean coastal towns

    A long the coast of Chile there are often locally organised fairs intended to display the projects that are conducted in the region. These are popular with local university students and school children and represent a great opportunity to explain how the work of the Albatross Task Force is working with the fishing industry to prevent the incidental bycatch of threatened seabirds.

    One of the main objectives of the Task…

    • 25 Jul 2014
  • Working as an intern with BirdLife South Africa

    I have been completing an internship with BirdLife South Africa, as part of the Groen Sebenza internship programme. It has given me an opportunity to learn more about my career options in conservation. I have learnt of the collaboration between different conservation organisations and met interesting people who play a vital role in conservation.

    Personally I found BirdLife South Africa’s Albatross Task Force team to…

    • 25 Jul 2014
  • Reducing seabird mortality in Namibia

    In Namibia we are working to reduce seabird mortality in the longline and trawl fisheries. Together these two fisheries are responsible for the accidental mortality of around 30,000 seabirds per year, the majority of which are white-chinned petrels and yellow-nosed albatross. These alarming figures represent one of the most lethal fisheries in the world in terms of seabird bycatch. Despite this high level of mortality,…

    • 21 Jul 2014
  • Social dynamics at sea

    While we are at sea it is important for us understand more than just the interaction between seabirds and vessels.

    To reach out and connect with the captains and crew we must learn to understand the life of these people with whom we share our time, and ultimately the people who will be responsible for the adoption of new practices in their daily routine that will help save the albatross. Some of the people we meet are…

    • 18 Jul 2014
  • Amazing new invention from UK business ready to save the Albatross

    Globally, an albatross dies on a fishing hook every 5 minutes. Hookpod is a clever new invention that catches fish, not birds. Designed by Devon-based brothers Ben and Pete Kibel and trialled extensively by the RSPB Albatross Task Force on behalf of BirdLife International, it’s small in size, big in innovation and has huge implications for saving the albatross from extinction.

    What’s the problem?

    By far…

    • 17 Jul 2014
  • Public speaking: a big part of working with the ATF

    The first thing to realize if you plan on enjoying life in the ATF, is that you will have to speak in public and it will happen a lot! Despite being shy sometimes, these opportunities are going to keep coming up and you have to learn to enjoy them.

    You have to understand that it’s only going to get better if you face up to it and know that the earlier you start doing it the better, because the longer you wait the more…

    • 12 Jul 2014
  • A life of adventure

    The life of an ATF instructor is filled with adventure. Our job is to collect seabird abundance and interaction data at sea. It involves working with fishermen to find and implement solutions to seabird bycatch. It comes with a lot of amazing opportunities; we wake up at sea to the wonderful sound of birds, surrounded by the beautiful blue waters of the ocean and a peaceful atmosphere which comes with the sea-breeze.

    • 12 Jul 2014
  • Greening the Future award for ATF South Africa

    The South African newspaper, the Mail & Guardian holds a prestigious, annual ‘Greening the Future’ awards ceremony in Johannesburg. This year the South African Albatross Task Force team was awarded top honours for our work introducing an innovative solution that has reduced albatross deaths in the local trawl fishery by more than 90%.

    Our work in South Africa’s largest, most economically valuable fishery…

    • 1 Jul 2014
  • Future for nature award: helping save the albatross

    In April 2014, three young conservationists all making a difference in their own way, headed to the Netherlands to receive the Future for Nature Award 2014. I was one of the three people awarded for my work with the Albatross Task Force, preventing unnecessary deaths of seabirds during fishing operations. I was selected from a total of 126 applications from 58 countries to be one of the lucky recipients of this prestigious…

    • 11 Jun 2014
  • Understanding seabird bycatch in small scale fisheries

    The causes of seabird bycatch in longline and trawl fisheries are relatively well known, and solutions exist that reduce the mortality in these fisheries. In small scale fisheries, such as purse seine and gillnet fleets, we are still identifying the way in which seabirds interact with fishing gear. This process will lead to a better understanding of where and how mortality occurs. Only once we have identified these factors…

    • 6 Jun 2014
  • Albatross deaths down by 99% in local trawl fishery

    Conservation success stories are hard to find. Rarely are they the result of simple, elegant solutions that are truly win-win. Now BirdLife South Africa have demonstrated just such a good-news outcome. Accidental seabird deaths during fishing is the single greatest threat facing many seabird populations. Albatrosses, in particular, are under extreme pressure with 15 of the world’s 22 albatross species threatened with…

    • 12 May 2014
  • Workshop on gillnet and purse seine fisheries

    Each year an estimated 400,000 seabirds are killed in gillnet fisheries, while no estimates exist yet for purse seine fleets. Little attention has been given to purse seine fisheries as it was thought they had little impact on seabirds. Alarming new evidence is starting to change that perspective.

    The Albatross Task Force has been monitoring both of these fisheries in three countries, Chile, Peru and Ecuador as part…

    • 8 May 2014
  • Monitoring small scale gillnet fisheries in Peru

    The port of San José is a quiet village where everyone knows each other. Most of the people who live there are fishermen, so it is not surprising that everything revolves around fish. The fishermen in San José are divided into two groups, those who go out just for one day trips (called “chalaneros”) and those who go out for one week or more (called “cortineros”). This time Philipp Hofmann of local NGO ProDelphinus…

    • 22 Apr 2014
  • Chalaneros and Cortineros: at sea in Peru

    Fernando Valdez Ridoutt from ProDelphinus in Peru writes today's ATF blog:

    It is not easy to figure out everything Peruvian small-scale fishermen go through to get their catch from sea to market. I have been discovering this in the port of San José, first hand. I have been working hard to collaborate with these fishermen and have been welcomed as an observer on several different boats.

    Work begins between…

    • 16 Apr 2014
  • A rare calm trip off South Africa

    Going to sea is the most unique aspect of this job, and my primary duty – to go on deep-sea trawlers and collect seabird interaction data. I’m one of only three people in South Africa doing this. We are responsible for keeping our eyes peeled and our minds open but focused on the task at hand: seabirds and mitigating bycatch. Three weeks into the job, I landed on my first commercial deep-sea hake trawler.

    • 1 Apr 2014
  • A floating holiday

    When I began working with the ATF, I always wondered what it would be like to be at sea during an important holiday – like Christmas or New Year. The idea of being away from home, working over such occasions did not fill me with enthusiasm. In the first five years working with the ATF my sea trips never coincided with national holidays… but there is always a first time. This year I was due to embark around the Christmas…
    • 1 Apr 2014
  • The next generation of albatross scientists

    I remember each step I have taken with the ATF, at-sea with the birds as well as on-shore with my own kind - generally people directly related with fisheries. However, seabird bycatch issues can transcend the geographical border between open-ocean and coast and infiltrate our towns and cities. By doing so, it can pique the interest of the most important part of our society: the next generation.

    In one of my previous…

    • 27 Mar 2014
  • Meeting for conservation interns in Johannesburg

    I am working with the Albatross Task Force as a project through the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) Internship programme. Recently I had a great opportunity to meet other people in the programme, which felt amazing. Together we are a group of hundreds of young and inspirational people.  I met other interns who come from different backgrounds and learnt about their lives as they were growing up and how…

    • 23 Mar 2014
  • International recognition for ATF star Bronwyn Maree

    In the Albatross Task Force we are extremely proud of the dedicated individuals who perform a very challenging role for seabird conservation - working with the fishing industry, government and observer agencies both on-shore and at-sea to demonstrate, introduce and implement mitigation measures to keep albatross off the hook. It gives us great pleasure to announce that one of the stars of the ATF has received international…

    • 11 Jan 2014
  • The great Baobab tree has fallen

    Today I just want to pay tribute to my lifelong hero and role model Tata Nelson Mandela. His death really struck a chord in my heart that was never struck before. I guess it is true what they say when they say ‘you never know what you have until it is gone’. His death has sturred up emotions in me I never knew I had, it moved me in ways I have never been moved. In all honesty I just couldn’t hold back the litres of tears…

    • 13 Dec 2013