In nearly eight years the Albatross Task Force has published around 288 blogs in this community. These diaries have reflected part of the effort of our team from eight countries where the ATF is working for the conservation of our seabirds. These records, apart from letters and images are also leaving a trail of our experiences and feelings.

Amongst these experiences at-sea the ATF are breaking down barriers of language, customs, conflicts, reduced working spaces and more. We should especially highlight that these objectives are almost exclusively related to being able to share with others on board and find empathy with ship mates.

Generally, we work with large industrial vessels which belong to fishing companies. Such vessels have on board facilities like individual or shared cabins. There is often a ship’s cook and some kind of washing facilities. On the other side of the coin the ATF also works with the world of artisanal fisheries. Examples of this activity are typical of Chile, Peru and Ecuador in particular.

Below: An artisanal fishing port in Arica, north of Chile. Here products collected in small quantity are used to provide fresh produce for local consumption © Cristián G. Suazo


This type of small scale fishing is found throughout South America and cumulatively represents an important fishing effort. Through our work in the ATF we get a much closer look at the reality for some of these people.

Clearly working at-sea is quite different from land and the quality and comfort of working in an office or laboratory. I was born and grew up in a mediterranean climate in Chile, from which I have many visual and olfactory memories of small scale production, for example of my uncle producing wine for family consumption! After starting an academic career I found another small scale production, but this time at-sea

Being in contact with the artisanal fishery, we as investigators soon discover sleeping is no longert something taken for granted, in a six metre boat with three other people aboard it is at best an intermittent experience. Preparing food amidst the to and fro of the waves and a variety of other nuicances start emerging once away from the comfort of land.

Similar vessels are used in the different extremes of Chile’s coast; from the far north in front of the hot desert, where the Humboldt Current feeds productive fisheries to >3,000 km south in Chilean Patagonia where fishermen confront quite different conditions. Living for extended periods on isolated islands in extreme temperatures, they withstand snow and storms, sometimes with terrible consequences. A friend and colleague, Jaime Ojeda, was in the same camp with some artisanal fishermen when some of them were lost to the southern seas.

Below: Fishing camp in the Magallanes Region in Chilean Patagonia. Artisanal fishers will remain in these camps for long periods in the southern winter. © Jaime Ojeda

Being away from the family for long periods of time with extremely basic and sometimes no safety equipment at all is a tough life to say the least. The fishing community is undergoing a decline in the south of Chile, with families reluctant to see their children follow the same arduous route which offers so few opportunities.

Recently I have noticed that increased interest is being directed toward artisanal fisheries as a source of conservation concern for marine fauna. However, I always remind people that it was the artisanal fishing sector that came up with one of the most effective mitigation measures for longline fisheries – using the Chilean longline system adopted from artisanal fisheries has eliminated seabird bycatch in the toothfish fisheries of the southern cone of South America.  

Definitely artisanal fishermen like all other sectors of humanity, have the right to be wrong, but can also teach us and work with us to improve our world.