Good News: Saving albatrosses from extinction- a decade of success; World Ocean’s Day 8th June


Some good news!

Quite a few years ago Hugh Paxton’s Blog was fortunate enough to visit Midway atoll on a media trip before it was declared off limits to the general public.

A delightful island, home to thousands of nesting sea birds (most notably tens of thousands of Laysan albatrosses and their distinctly large and ‘gooney’ chicks). Midway has been a US military base for decades and the surrounding waters are free of commercial fishing boats and teemed with fish, turtles, spinner dolphins – wonderful to see. Rather a less cheerful sight were the dead Laysan chicks. A staple food is squid. These die after breeding and the adult mothers scoop up their bodies to feed their young. They also swallow anything else of interest floating on the waves and as a result a lot of young gooney birds are force fed regurgitated plastic garbage – cigarette lighters, shot gun cartridges, fishing lures, an extraordinary range of things carried here by currents from very distant shores or heaved over the side of boats. Albatrosses range over thousands of kilometers of open oceans. And then bring their finds, both nutritious or downright indigestible, back to their remote Pacific island colonies. Many chicks simply fill up with junk food (in the most literal sense of the word) and die of malnutrition. They rot, their mortal remains are eaten by crabs, and where once there was a waist-height gooney braying like a donkey and preparing for a life skimming the vast ocean, a sad pyramid of plastic remains instead like a horrible gravestone.

Overall I left Midway inspired by nature’s wonders but also with the nagging conviction that all was far from pristine in paradise. I’ve never forgotten Midway and its albatrosses and so it was with genuine pleasure that I received the following from Shaun Hurrell at Birdlife International!

I hope it cheers you up!

Best from Bangkok!


From: Shaun Hurrell []
Sent: Tuesday, June 07, 2016 8:29 PM
To: Shaun Hurrell
Subject: NEWS: Saving albatrosses from extinction- a decade of success; World Ocean’s Day 8th June

Shaun Hurrell

Communications Officer


+44 (0)1223 747555

Embargo: Not for publication or broadcast until Wednesday 8th June 2016

Media release

High-seas heroes saving albatrosses from extinction: a decade of success

  • The Albatross Task Force (ATF), a team of experts led by the RSPB and BirdLife International, was launched ten years ago to reduce the number of albatrosses and petrels accidently killed by fisheries in the Southern Ocean.
  • The ATF has been highly successful in that time, achieving a 99% reduction in albatross deaths in the South African hake trawl fishery through the introduction of bird-scaring lines, a simple solution which prevents seabirds from interacting with fishing equipment.
  • Thanks to their work, seven out of the ten fisheries originally identified as seabird bycatch hotspots have now adopted regulations to protect seabirds during fishing.
  • The ATF is working with local governments to ensure all target fleets are complying with the recommended mitigation methods

On World Oceans Day, an international team of experts that works to prevent seabirds getting killed unintentionally in fishing lines is celebrating ten years of conservation success.

Albatrosses are one of the most threatened groups of birds in the world. Every year, an estimated 100,000 albatrosses are incidentally killed on longline fishing hooks and trawl cables. This fishery mortality is the main driver of albatross population declines, and 15 of the 22 species of albatross are threatened with extinction.

The RSPB and BirdLife International launched the ATF to reduce the number of albatrosses and petrels deaths through the introduction of simple and effective mitigation measures, and ultimately to improve the conservation status of threatened seabirds. Measures include the use of bird-scaring lines, setting baited hooks under the cover of darkness and weighting hook lines to help them sink rapidly out of reach of foraging birds.

A new report shows that since its launch in 2006, the Albatross Task Force has been extremely successful. Albatross bycatch has been reduced by 99% in the South African hake trawl fishery and experimental trials demonstrate at least 85% reductions in seabird bycatch are possible in six other fisheries where regulations that require the use of bird-safe methods on their boats are now in place.

The ATF works through BirdLife International partners and local NGOs in the Southern Hemisphere, and have spent over 5,000 days at sea to demonstrate how to keep seabirds off the hook. ATF recommendations are based on rigorous scientific testing, working side by side with the fishing industry.

Oliver Yates, ATF Programme Manager, said: “Albatrosses are magnificent seabirds and it’s a truly breath-taking experience to see them at sea. They are among the largest flying birds and have the largest wingspans of any bird in the world, reaching up to an incredible 3.5m.

“Albatrosses spend most of their lives at sea and only come onto land to breed. As a third of albatrosses breed in UK Overseas Territories it is our duty to protect these threatened birds and encourage other governments to do the same whilst in their waters.

“The ATF have made some great achievements over the last ten years but we still need to ensure all vessels in all fleets are effectively implementing the mitigation measures recommended for the fishery, and that this becomes sustainable in the long-term.”

Patricia Zurita, CEO at Birdlife International, said: “By saving albatrosses from accidental death behind fishing boats, we are saving one of the most threatened groups of birds from extinction.

“BirdLife has proven this works with a decade of research, refining solutions and working with fishermen. Now it is time to expand this model worldwide so we can ensure no bird is needlessly caught by fisheries ever again in the future.”

Large reductions in seabird bycatch have been achieved where governments have supported the adoption of regulations and the ATF has demonstrated that similar reductions of albatross deaths are possible in other target fisheries if these mitigation methods are put into practice. This requires improving levels of compliance through national fishery monitoring initiatives.

Clemens Naomab, Albatross Task Force Instructor in Namibia, said: “When you find out you are saving 30,000 birds a year, it’s a wonderful experience. It’s worth all the days of seasickness!

“Fishermen don’t want to catch seabirds, it is accidental. The simple changes we introduce on boats and in policy not only eliminate this bycatch, but are good for fishermen too. I don’t see another way that would work better than what we are doing now.”

To find out how you can help save the albatross visit


For further information and to arrange an interview, please contact:

Katie Prewett, Media Officer, Katie.prewett 01767 693214


To download a selection of images and video clips relevant to this press release, please click here (images) and here (video)

Broadcast-quality radio interviews:

To arrange an ISDN broadcast-quality radio interview please contact Katie Prewett at the RSPB press office.


1.The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

2.Albatross Task Force: The Albatross Task Force is an initiative led by the RSPB for the BirdLife International Partnership and is a major part of the BirdLife International Global Marine Programme. The initiative involves work on the ground in eight countries including Argentina (hosted by Aves Argentinas), Brazil (Projeto Albatroz), Chile (CODEFF), Ecuador until 2013 (Aves y Conservación), Namibia (Namibia Nature Foundation), Peru (ProDelphinus), South Africa (BirdLife South Africa) and Uruguay (Proyecto Albatros y Petreles de Uruguay)

3.ATF report:The ATF annual report 2015 reflects on the advances in the ten target fisheries over the last ten years and the future challenges the ATF faces. A link to the report can be foundhere.

4.Albatross Task Force videos

  1. Saving Albatrosses – how to reduce seabird bycatch (technical video for fisheries produced by the Albatross Task Force): here

6.The RSPB is proud to have the largest range of charity pin badges in the country which offers a great way to show support for a species that is under threat such as albatrosses. These high quality enamelled badges provide valuable income to help us give nature a home. The current range is available from our reserves plus 8,000 sites across the UK as well as our official eBay site – which is currently offering albatross badges at.

Katie Prewett

Media Officer

UK Headquarters The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire SG19 2DL
Tel 01767 693214

Follow us on Twitter @RSPBNews

The RSPB is the country’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654

This email and any attachments may contain material that is confidential, subject to copyright and intended for the addressee only. If you are not the named recipient you must not use, disclose, reproduce, copy or distribute the contents of this communication. If you have received this in error, please contact the sender and then delete this email from your system. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity in England and Wales no. 207076 and in Scotland no. SC037654.

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