With its monumental wingspan and spectacular long-distance flying potential, the Antipodean Albatross Diomedea antipodensis appears nearly indestructible. But except we act quickly, this majestic ocean wanderer, which breeds on a scattering of islands off New Zealand, could possibly be functionally extinct inside 20 years on account of shockingly excessive ranges of fisheries-related deaths.
This magnificent seabird (a detailed cousin of the world’s largest flying hen, the Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans) can reside as much as 70+ years. Antipodean Albatrosses solely begin breeding from the age of ten years and, even then, they solely lay one egg with every breeding try (normally each two years). This gradual fee of replica makes the species extraordinarily susceptible to human threats, and in 2018 its conservation standing was uplisted to Endangered, as greater than half of its breeding inhabitants had been misplaced since 2004.
In an earlier article we described how unintentional ‘bycatch’ in longline fisheries is driving their speedy decline in numbers and the way, because of the tendency for females to forage in areas with increased density of longline vessels, the remaining inhabitants suffers from a skewed intercourse ratio with two males for each one feminine.
To uncover extra, in 2019 researchers fitted satellite tv for pc transmitters to 63 Antipodean Albatrosses, and tracked them for as much as 12 months. During this time, eight transmitters stopped working near fishing vessels, and one transmitter was later recovered from a hen caught by a excessive seas longline vessel fishing out of American Samoa.
When researchers overlaid this monitoring knowledge with the distributions of longline fishing boats, they discovered that the areas of best overlap happened within the High Seas of the Western Pacific Ocean, notably within the mid-Tasman Sea and to the northeast of New Zealand. When this monitoring info was cut up by flag state, it revealed a number of key fishing fleets working in areas frequented by the species, together with Taiwan, Vanuatu (though vessels are doubtless operated by firms in Taiwan or China), New Zealand, China, and Spain.
The crimson ovals spotlight the very best threat areas for Antipodean Albatross. Source: Bose, S. & Debski, I. (2020). Antipodean Albatross spatial distribution and fisheries overlap 2019.
This info is significant in informing the place efforts to cut back seabird bycatch needs to be focused. The New Zealand authorities has already been participating the fishing trade, each nationally and thru worldwide diplomatic channels, to verify mitigation measures (akin to bird-scaring strains, weighted fishing strains, hook safety units and setting the fishing strains at night time) are being utilized in these high-risk areas. They have additionally just lately launched rules requiring on-board cameras on business vessels fishing in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone to the west of North Island. These rules will likely be rolled out additional in 2021, and intention to extend onboard monitoring to make sure compliance with mitigation measures.
Addressing different fleets within the High Seas would require working with the related tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, or RFMOs, who management the foundations regarding tuna fishing around the globe. We might want to push for the strengthening of current rules which require the usage of mitigation measures in areas of the ocean the place seabird bycatch threat is excessive.
BirdLife continues to work with different conservation NGOs to advocate for larger safety for seabirds in these areas. For instance, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) has jurisdiction over tuna fisheries administration within the Antipodean Albatross’ vary. Here, we advocate for a rise in observer protection on boats – from 5% (a degree that has not modified for over a decade) to 100%. Greater observer protection has been proven to dramatically enhance compliance with seabird bycatch mitigation measures. This work is difficult, nevertheless. In the absence of a complete system of impartial commentary, present rules are already tough to watch and implement.
Another strategy that BirdLife has adopted is to talk to vessel homeowners as they enter ports throughout the Pacific. Already in Fiji, BirdLife Pacific run a port-based outreach program the place an area Fijian is employed to speak to fishers about seabird bycatch rules. There is even an area girls’s+ group who’re making bird-scaring strains for vessels coming into Fiji’s ports. This work has resulted in elevated consciousness among the many crews of vessels arriving in Suva’s port. They are actually much better knowledgeable about their obligations beneath the RFMOs, and importantly, the plight of the Antipodean Albatross.
However, with out pressing motion from the fishing trade and WCPFC, the way forward for the Antipodean Albatross turns into more and more precarious. If we wish this majestic species to proceed inspiring future generations, we have to halt pointless deaths in business fisheries.
So what can you do for this emblematic hen? Market strain is among the strongest methods to vary business practices. Choosing tuna that’s MSC-certified, and asking eating places the place the tuna they serve is caught and whether or not it’s sustainably sourced, is one step in the precise path. When the demand for responsibly-sourced, seabird-friendly seafood will increase, firms will likely be compelled to reply.