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Keeping Albatrosses Off The Hook

BRAZIL - BirdLife seabird conservationists in Brazil have made a breakthrough with the protection of several species of imperiled albatross. Their efforts have shown that with simple measures around nine out of the ten albatrosses caught on longline fishing hooks three years ago can now be saved.

According to figures collated by the Albatross Task Force (ATF) in Brazil, in 2007, approximately one albatross was being caught for every 1000 longline hooks set but - with the help of the specially-trained instructors funded by the BBC Wildlife Fund through its broadcast appeal - this figure can be reduced to just one bird for every 10,000 hooks.

The ATF is co-ordinated by BirdLife International and funded by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK). Tatiana Neves, Director of Projeto Albatroz, the local organisation running the Brazilian ATF, said: "During winter Brazilian waters teem with albatrosses, including several species facing the threat of extinction. We recognize the importance of Brazilian waters for the birds and with the support of Brazilian fishermen we are showing the potential for reducing the slaughter by using the right techniques.

"So far we have proved it's possible to save nine of the ten albatrosses which were dying three years ago, but this success has only been on vessels where we have expert instructors. The next huge step is to strive for similar levels of success across the fishing fleet operating in Brazil, but based on the dedication of the Task Force and the vital assistance from BBC viewers we have made a great start."

The Albatross Task Force is actively encouraging the use of simple, affordable measures within the commercial institutions of Brazilian tuna and swordfish fleet. Fisherman are being encouraged to fit and use these measures, such as bird-scaring lines and weighted hook lines, to their vessels to reduce albatross bycatch. By adding weights, the hooks rapidly sink out of the reach of foraging albatross whilst the bird-scaring line protects baited hooks for the short time they are at the water surface. This is an important combination of measures that the ATF recommends as best practice for these fisheries.

The BBC Wildlife Fund is helping to save threatened species and wild places around the world and since 2007 it has given £57,205 in grants to the ATF in Brazil. These funds are being used directly to employ two 'instructors' who are: identifying ports and vessels where they should focus their efforts; carrying out technical assessment of fishing gear; and assessing seabird bycatch and the positive impact of the new technology.

the Fish Site Editor

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