At talks held recently at the headquarters of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), British partner of BirdLife International, Dr Ben SULLIVAN, Global Seabird Programme Coordinator, welcomed the new route the Volvo Ocean Race will take in Asia.
'We are especially interested that the new route for the Volvo Ocean Race will visit Asia. This is a region from which the world's largest fishing fleets originate, and their support for the Save the Albatross Campaign is crucial,'
said Dr SULLIVAN.
Sailors have always felt a close affinity with the albatross, which spend long periods of their lives at sea, so the 2005-06 Volvo Ocean Race crews enthusiastically embraced the campaign. The crews observed, wrote about and filmed these magnificent seabirds, and, as a result, the race has significantly raised awareness and public support for the work of the new Albatross Task Force all around the world.
In port, the crews took part in activities to highlight the campaign including escorting the media out into the open sea off Cape Town to observe albatross in flight and while they were briefly in Wellington New Zealand, the skippers publicly pledged their support for the albatross at a ceremony organized by BirdLife partner Forest & Bird.
The international group of sailors signed a large postcard that Forest & Bird delivered to the diplomatic missions of Chinese Taipei, Japan, Brazil, Australia, South Africa, Spain, Chile and Argentina. These countries have important longline fishing fleets or are albatross range states and have been encouraged to adopt seabird bycatch mitigation measures in their fisheries operations.
'As a sailor it's great to see albatross while you're out in the middle of nowhere. It can get pretty lonely when you're at sea for weeks on end, so seeing these awesome birds is a great sight for us,'
said Mike SANDERSON (NZL), skipper of the eventual race winner ABN AMRO ONE and 2006 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, at the time.
The Albatross Task Force is a group of specialists recruited to spend time at sea and on shore working with fishermen and showing them ways of albatross-friendly fishing. The Task Force currently working in South Africa, Brazil and Chile, with Argentina and Namibia and hopefully Uruguay coming on line soon. Setting up each task force member costs around Euro 37,000 a year.
There are three simple ways of reducing the number of albatross deaths: adding weights to fishing lines so that they sink quickly, setting lines at night and using bird-scaring devices such as streamers known as tori-lines which cost 75€ each. Where these methods are used, there is a dramatic reduction in seabird deaths.
Only recently, the plight of the world's seabirds has been recognized by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization Committee on Fisheries. At a week-long meeting, BirdLife International - with backing from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA, Chile and Brazil - secured the Committee's support for the development of 'best-practice guidelines' for National Plans of Action to help reduce seabird bycatch.
Dr SULLIVAN, who was at the meeting, said, 'Seabirds, particularly albatross, are facing immense threats, more so than any other group of birds in the world. It's a genuinely good result that the world's fishing nations have recognized the importance of developing best practices to assist them in reducing the impact of their fisheries on seabirds.'
Of the 21 albatross species, 19 are threatened with extinction. Fishing vessels set lines with thousands of bated hooks, delivering them into the ocean at rate of two per second. Seabird bycatch happens when seabirds swallow baited hooks and drown, and it is a major threat to many of the albatross species.
ISAF has launched the ISAF Environment microsite at www.sailing.org/environment, where you will be able to find the ISAF Code of Environmentally Friendly Behaviour, links to successful environmental sailing initiatives around the world and all the latest news on sailing and the environment.