Danger zones identified for at-risk seabirds
Global research highlighting the most important areas for albatrosses
may yet help save these magical birds from extinction.
Satellite tracking data for 16 species of albatross and three petrel
species, all of them endangered by commercial and pirate longline
fishing, have been collated by BirdLife.
Tracking Ocean Wanderers highlights areas where longline fleets are
putting seabirds at most risk. The report is a unique collaboration
between scientists worldwide and should help determine action
governments take to stop albatrosses and petrels becoming extinct. It
highlights hotspots where concentrations of both longliners and
seabirds occur are identified. These include the waters around New
Zealand and South-East Australia, the South-West Indian Ocean, South
Atlantic and North Pacific.
Dr Cleo Small, International Marine Policy Officer at BirdLife
International said: "Identifying areas where albatrosses and fishermen
overlap is a crucial conservation step. To save these birds from
extinction, the fishing industry, government and conservationists need
to collaborate to devise simple, innovative and effective initiatives
to reduce seabird mortality across all oceanic waters, regardless of
More than 300,000 seabirds, including 100,000 albatrosses, die as
bycatch at the hands of longline fleets every year. Lines of up to 80
miles (130 kilometres), each carrying thousands of baited hooks, lure
the birds, which are dragged under and drowned. This has left all 21
albatross species officially classed as under global threat of
Some albatross species travel huge distances - the Northern Royal
Albatross flies up to 1,800 kilometres in 24 hours and the Grey-headed
Albatross can circle the globe in 42 days. The report also stresses the
importance of coastal shelf areas for albatrosses and petrels whilst
breeding, and of highly productive oceanic regions such as the Humboldt
Current, the Patagonian Shelf, the Antarctic Polar Frontal Zone, and
the Benguela Current.
Other interesting finding are the differences in foraging areas used by
breeding and non-breeding adults, and young and mature birds. Brooding
albatrosses rely on foraging grounds close to breeding sites and, as
chicks grow, the range of adult breeding birds extends.
Tracking Ocean Wanderers is being published as parties to the Agreement
on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) meet for the
first time, in Tasmania this week. John Croxall, Head of Conservation
Biology at the British Antarctic Suvey said, "The data, and the results
presented in this report, will be of immense assistance in developing
the work of the new ACAP."
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