Saving the Albatross from Extinction

23rd September 2011   |   Jackie Hutchings

An interesting thing happened this week.  For reasons that I won’t bore you with, I spent some time researching the RSPB (for my overseas readers, this is the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds)  Now, I always thought that the RSPB campaigned exclusively in the UK.  How wrong could I have been.

In partnership with BirdLife, the RSPB have mobilised a global task force, working with fishermen to save the Albatross from extinction due to using long line fishing.

A bit about the Albatross:

Albatrosses are among the largest flying birds. They soar thousands of miles across oceans without pause. Their only need to touch land is to nest and raise young.

The albatross is one of the most amazing birds in existence; it is truly breathtaking. I had several follow me at various points along my journey and they certainly gave me company on a very solitary trip. I hope that we still have the opportunity now to save these magnificent creatures before it is too late.
Ellen MacArthur – celebrated yachtswoman

Some facts about long line fishing

  • A longline is a fishing line usually made of monofilament.
  • It ranges in length from 1.6km to as long as 100km.
  • It is buoyed by styrofoam or plastic floats.
  • Every 30m or so, there is a secondary line attached which is hooked and baited.
  • As many as 100 million hooks a year are set by the Japanese fleet alone in the Southern bluefin tuna fishery

I’ll leave the rest to your imagination (although I’m guessing that the photograph has given you a clue).  These lines are left to drift for up to 24 hours which means that:

  • 12 of the world’s 14 albatross species are believed to be dying in the tens of thousands each year.
  • Commercial fishing has been identified as the most serious threat to their survival.

What can we do?

  • Support the Albatross Task Force – these people  spend weeks at a time onboard fishing vessels, braving some of the harshest conditions on earth, to save the albatross from extinction.  Your donation will go towards buying equipment and safety gear to keep them working.
  • Spread the word – you can order freeSave the Albatross postcards to tell people how amazing albatrosses are and the campaign to save them – before it’s too late.
  • Become a ‘Friend of the Albatross‘ – donate as little as £2.00 a month.  To put this into context, £2.00 will buy you a takeaway sandwich, half a pint of beer, (I’m talking UK prices and understand that there are vast regional differences but I think you can see where I’m going with this), a copy of the Sunday Times (and, let’s face it, we throw most of it away unread), a bar of Green & Blacks chocolate (unless they’re on offer, in which case you probably spend £3.00 on 2 bars)… I could go on but I think I’ve made my point :-)
  • Save your stamps! Well, the humble stamp has a resale value – small, but still valuable in large enough quantities. When you send in your stamps you are helping give these birds a brighter future. For example, £50’s worth of stamp sales will buy a tori-line (bird scaring device) for a longline fishing vessel.

What are the long term prospects?

When I first read about this, my thoughts were “how can this possibly be stopped?’  Fishing lines aren’t going to go away.  But, as always, there is a solution if enough people care and want to do something about it.  So, [BirdLife](http://www.birdlife.org/) is trialling [a new type of safe fishing weights](http://www.rspb.org.uk/news/285178-new-birdfriendly-fishing-gear-lands-big-fish), designed to sink baited hooks quickly and reduce the risk to seabirds, while also being safe for fishermen to use.  Early results are more than encouraging so there’s hope on the horizon ![:-)](http://blog.scubadviser.com/blog/wp-includes/images/smilies/icon_smile.gif)
**PS – **I was a childhood stamp collector.  I lovingly collected and categoried them in an album using stamp hinges (which I think are no longer used).  I collected first day covers (and even have an [England Winners World Cup 1966](http://www.stamp-shop.com/england-winners.html) stamp which I was sure would provide me with my pension in later life).  Having realised that my treasured collection is pretty much worthless (to me that is), I can now at least use it to help the RSPB keep the albatross from extinction.  So, RSPB, an envelope full of stamps will be winging its way to you ![:-)](http://blog.scubadviser.com/blog/wp-includes/images/smilies/icon_smile.gif)  Thank you for caring.
[Photo Credit : Australian Antarctic Division/Graham Robertson]

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