Too many needless and horrid deaths
100,000 albatrosses die each year on fishing hooks. They are being killed in such vast numbers that they can’t breed fast enough to keep up. This is putting them in real danger of extinction.
Death on a hook
Picture the scene. One minute you’re an albatross gliding across the ocean majestically. You spot a fishing boat, surrounded by other birds, and you know from experience that it offers an easy meal (might be discarded fish waste or bait).
You swoop in to pick up a particularly tasty piece of squid.
As you swallow the bait down, there is a sudden, terrible pain.
The hook embedded in the bait catches and rips your throat. Helplessly, you find yourself dragged down into dark, cold waters.
You choke and drown and are dragged deep down below the surface.
You’re unnoticed until your bedraggled corpse is hauled up and discarded.
This happens to an albatross around once every five minutes.
One more to add to the 100,000 of your kind killed this way every year.
Back on land, your partner and your chick are waiting for you to return with food – but you aren’t coming back.
So your chick will inevitably die of starvation, exposure or stress.
A billion hooks out a year
Longline fishing fleets, which operate throughout the world’s oceans, target vast numbers of tuna, swordfish, Patagonian toothfish and other species.
The boats set fishing lines that can stretch for 130 kilometers (or 80 miles) into the ocean. Each line carries thousands and thousands of hooks baited with squid and fish. These attract albatrosses, which get caught, dragged below the water and drown.
The large fish these boats catch are in high demand. Single bluefin tuna have fetched as much as US$100,000 on the Japanese market.
Why are albatrosses so vulnerable?
Albatrosses are exceptionally susceptible to longlining. They can’t breed fast enough to cope with the rate at which they are being killed. Other species, with different life cycles, might be able to survive. Why is this so?
- Naturally, albatrosses are long-lived birds, some living up to 60 years.
- They only breed once they are fully mature – this can take as long as 12 years.
- They only produce one chick at a time, and several albatross species only breed every second year.
Like many other seabirds, albatrosses face threats at sea and on land, such as introduced predators and habitat destruction. However, the biggest threat faced by most species is death on longline fishing hooks.
Many of these tragic and needless deaths could be stopped.
We have the solutions – you can help us put them into practice.
19 of the 21 species of albatross in the world are threatened with extinction largely because of longline fishing. BirdLife International compiles the official list of threatened birds. Currently, 2 albatross species are Critically Endangered, 7 are Endangered and 10 are Vulnerable.
Around a third of albatross deaths are caused by illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing fleets.
At its worst, pirate fishing is organized crime, in which vessels plunder fish stocks with no regard for regulations, national sovereignty or bird protection. They leave devastation in their wake.
’Albatrosses have survived in the harshest marine environments for 50 million years; more than 100 times longer than our own species. However, these magnificent birds are unable to cope with man-made threats, such as longline fishing.‘
Sir David Attenborough – Broadcaster and naturalist