Saturday, July 08, 2006

Save the Albatross


'It was harrowing! Never have I pushed myself to such limits before... I came to cracking point many times - 'rough' described all aspects of this trip! The sea, the food, the bunk and the smell.

'The swell reached 5 m on good days and the winds blew up to 40 knots on bad days... Food was cooked in lard and it was difficult to wash with the constant pitch and roll of the boat.

'The smell was concocted by the processing crew in the slaughter-house. It consisted of shark flesh, urine and faeces and was ever-present. I suffered nausea pretty much 70% of the time, but felt incredibly welcome by all on the vessel, who gave their all to assist me.'

What's it all about? No, not the weirdest reality TV show ever broadcast, but the day-to-day work of Maria Honig, a member of the Albatross Task Force. One of the aims of the Save the Albatross campaign is to get Task Force members onto longline fishing boats to help educate fishermen in how not to catch albatrosses accidentally.

The problem is that 100,000 albatrosses die each year on the end of longline fishing hooks. As they're big birds (some only breed every other year) and usually only have one chick at once, they can't keep up with the rate of attrition.

19 of the 21 albatross species worldwide face extinction.

The good news is that it can be fairly simple to stop albatrosses being hooked on the longlines.

Plastic streamers flown alongside the lines scare the birds off. Putting weights on the lines helps the bait sink quickly before the albatrosses catch sight of it. Setting the lines at night when the birds are less active also helps avoid 'bycatch'.

The campaign needs your support to help rescue the world's albatrosses from disaster. Spread the word, put a banner on your blog, tell your friends and make a donation!

More tales from the high seas here, if you have the appetite...