Dozing polar bear, Indianapolis Zoo

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Endangered Species Thursday: Albatrosses

First, the video, with one of my favorite people, Sir David Attenborough:

Albatrosses don't just have plastic problems, they have hook problems. Fishing hooks. You see, albatrosses eat sea life, and so the baited hooks used to catch seafood are a big draw for them. They see a tasty morsel on the water, swoop in, bite down, get hooked, and then get dragged through the water, drowning or choking to death. Often, there is a chick like this waiting on land for food whose parent never arrives:

Photo by and courtesy of Ben Osborne

This happens to 100,000 albatrosses per year. These birds breed slowly, so this adds up to a big problem. Nineteen of the twenty-two species of albatross are imperiled by long-line fishing. Three species are critically endangered. Seven are merely endangered.

Fortunately, there are solutions. BirdLife International is working with the fishing folks to take a few simple measures to alleviate the problem, such as installing simple bird-scaring devices on boats, dyeing bait blue to make it more difficult for the birds to see, and using mechanisms to make the bait sink past the birds' reach. To that end, they've created an Albatross Task Force whose job it is to get on the fishing boats and do the hard practical work of implementing these fixes.

Read the journals of Task Force members here, containing posts on their work on the fishing boats in different parts of the world. The thing that strikes you as you read these journals is how careful the Task Force members are to convince the people on the fishing boats that seabird protections are compatible with a good catch. They recognize that winning over the people working the boats is critical. Ultimately, of course, BirdLife International wants to convince governments and the fishing industry to get serious about protecting these birds, and to make the measures mentioned above part of standard fishing practice. I hope they succeed. I don't want a world without these guys:

Photo courtesy Albatross Task Force

Want to help? Go here.


kris said...

Oh, that chick looks too cute. I really didn't know very much about the albatross until I watched the video and read your post. Seven-foot wing span - I'd like to see that in person. Thanks for an informative post - I'm glad measures are being taken to help these guys - and showing ways for man (fishermen) and nature to co-exist always seems like the best way to me.

Lewis said...

Man, is that little thing cute or what. He looks so cuddly and soft and fluffy. Can I hold him????
(PS....To answer your question about the monk seal....yes! It is....amazing. Right on Waikiki Beach....with barrier tape around him and being guarded by two volunteers.)

Trailhead said...

It cracks me up that the chicks are these big, doofy, adorable things, and sometimes bigger than their own parents. I really fell in love with the albatrosses over the last couple of posts. So beautiful, and so imperiled by humans.

Lewis, now you've gotten me wondering how I can volunteer to be a monk seal bodyguard.

sasha said...

Viva Sir David Attenborough!!!

We love that guy around here.

Trailhead said...

My dad gave my son a collection of Attenborough's vids for Christmas when the kid was only three. I was skeptical, but I credit Attenborough and his riveting voice for the fact that my son actually watched most of them all the way through, several times.

Anonymous said...

MAN! That's a big CHICK! I was like ? IS that right? or did someone do some photoshop?


Trailhead said...

No, Toots, I think it's right! They can be even bigger than their parents at certain times.

Anonymous said...

another video you might like.

my coworker sent this to me when I sent that photo to her titled
"Big Chick"

Trailhead said...

Great minds think alike -- I saw that one when I was researching the post. It's wonderful, isn't it?