I am guessing many of you will have been glued to your screens over the last few weeks, watching the new Our Planet series on Netflix – I certainly have!
The highlight for me was of course the gorgeous Wandering Albatross from South Georgia, featured in the Frozen Worlds and High Seas episodes. Their massive wingspans, impressive life history and sheer beauty are mesmerising even to those of us lucky enough to study and work with these birds daily.
Those of you following #AlbatrossStories on social media will already have had your fair share of cute pictures and mind-boggling facts about how far they can travel or how long they live. But there is another, much less heart-warming, side to their story too…
As David Attenborough mentions in the series, industrial fishing poses a serious threat to the survival of these birds. Whilst soaring over the vast oceans in search of food, their sense of smell leads them to fishing vessels, where they scavenge on baited hooks set by longline vessels. For many this will be their last meal.
One hundred thousand albatrosses become hooked and drown this way every year. In most cases their corpses are hauled aboard many hours later, discarded and forgotten about evermore.
This would also have been the case for the young female wanderer caught on a Brazilian longline vessel a few months ago, had our ATF instructor Gabriel Sampaio not been on-board and noticed the ring number on her leg. In fact, it turned out to be a wanderer from Bird Island our #AlbatrossStories photographer Derren Fox was well acquainted with already.
Although it was too late to save this particular bird, retrieving information on the life history of caught individuals can help protect generations to come by providing conservationists with priceless information on how far they travel and where they are at most risk of being caught. We for instance know that this female wanderer hatched in 2006 and had a little chick waiting for her to return to the nest when she was killed in Brazilian waters. Luckily, her mate was able to provide their chick with enough food for it to survive. Many others are less fortunate…
As heart-breaking as it may sound, this is the reality that the wanderers of our oceans are facing today. The great news is that we know what to do to change that and have shown that simple and inexpensive mitigation measures can reduce albatross bycatch by 99%!
Please help us save these magnificent creatures by becoming a Friend of the Albatross today!
By Nina da Rocha (Albatross Task Force Project Officer)
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654
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