Have you been wondering what our international team of dedicated seabird bycatch instructors have been up to during the past couple of months? Read on to find out how they have been keeping busy from the comfort of their homes since the global COVID-19 pandemic came along and turned our world upside down!

Whether it be somewhere along the coast of Chile, in a neighbourhood with a view of Table Mountain in Cape Town or in the most southern state of Brazil – all of our ATF teams have been impacted by the restrictions put in place by governments around the world to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Although fishing operations have continued in most of the ports we work in – as fishing is considered an essential service – our teams’ access to ports, vessels and fishing crews has been severely hampered by the social distancing measures and mandatory lockdowns enforced by local authorities in their respective countries. The activities most affected by COVID 19 therefore include going out to sea to monitor seabird bycatch, performing routine port visits and delivering face-to-face training to industry representatives, fisheries observers and inspectors.

Fishers onboard trawl vessel in Argentina, where fishing operations are up and running again after a short period of inactivity earlier this year due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

But, even though they are currently not able to spend time on boats, our ATF instructors have been keeping busy and making progress nonetheless! By spending time planning and preparing for future project activities now, we are making sure that we will be ready to hit the ground running once the lockdown gets lifted and it is deemed safe for our teams to return to work.  As we have all been learning over the last couple of months, it is challenging to adapt to and plan for a situation that constantly seems to be changing. We for instance had plans to deliver a small-scale training event to fisheries inspectors in one of our key ports in Namibia next week – but have had to postpone as local authorities have decided to tighten restrictions once more.

In many countries, what started out as a relatively short quarantine period has turned into a new way of life with no end yet in sight. But being confined to our homes has also allowed us to focus efforts on things that had been put away for a rainy day and been on our to-do lists for far too long. So, despite not spending time saving seabirds out at sea, it has been a productive few months!

“Having the space and time to play around with data and writing is a rare luxury” – reports Andrea Angel, ATF team leader in South Africa.

Whilst working from home has its perks, it also requires staying in touch with colleagues more regularly and learning about new ways to communicate and share our work with others. And, for many of the members of the ATF team, we have had to become school assistants, day-carers and experts in online teaching at the same time!

We are also learning to put these skills to a test by developing online training material for outreach with fishers and observers – a first for the ATF! Continuing engagement with industry through whatever means possible is of vital importance now, as seabird bycatch mitigation may well take a back seat if we do not keep momentum up in a time when fishers have many other things to worry about.

Then there is of course also the World Albatross Day preparations! We are currently busy planning lots of exciting activities to celebrate this inaugural day with you on June 19th to raise awareness of these incredible birds and the conservation crisis they are facing.

ATF team leader Dimas Gianuca and instructor Gabriel Canani display World Albatross Day banner on Cassino Beach in southernmost Brazil. 

In light of the current situation, our ATF team in Brazil has had to resort to displaying their World Albatross Day banner on their local beach in Rio Grande, as they have not been able to go to sea or gain access to ports for months. 

With WAD2020 just 3 weeks away – it’s time to start getting excited! 

Make sure to follow the Albatross Task Force on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for all the latest news and updates about what we have planned for the day. 

Nina da Rocha - Albatross Task Force Project Officer

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