BirdLife's Albatross Task Force is bridging the gap between conservationists and fishermen

At sea, instructors monitor the effectiveness of bycatch mitigation measures © BirdLife South Africa

The Albatross Task Force is the world’s first international team of seabird bycatch mitigation instructors. It works with the fishing industry to raise awareness of seabird bycatch and demonstrate in situ the simple measures that can dramatically reduce it.


The scale of seabird, primarily albatross, bycatch in longline fisheries was first identified in the 1990s. In recent years, bycatch in trawl fisheries has also emerged as a serious issue. Since the problem was identified, a number of simple, cheap and effective mitigation measures have been developed which, once implemented, dramatically reduce the number of birds being killed. However, while the practical solutions exist, seabird bycatch in many fisheries remains at unsustainably high levels. Recognising the gap between knowledge, policy and actual action on the deck of fishing vessels, BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme created the Albatross Task Force (ATF) in 2005 to work directly with fishermen to raise awareness of seabird bycatch issues and demonstrate the practical solutions to combat it.

The first team of instructors was established in South Africa and was closely followed by teams in Brazil and Chile. In early 2008, coverage expanded into Argentina, Namibia and Uruguay, and subsequently Ecuador. The ATF is currently expanding into Peru, completing its presence in the most important countries for seabird bycatch in southern Africa and South America. The Task Force now operates in eight countries and employs 16 instructors.

The primary tasks are to work with fishermen and fishery managers, run training workshops on-shore and give practical demonstrations at sea. In 2009/10, the ATF has led an intense set of experimental mitigation research projects in seven countries and nine fisheries to determine best practice measures in longline and trawl fisheries. The influence of established ATF teams has been far reaching:

  • In Brazil, thanks to the ATF and Projeto Albatroz, around 50% of the Santos and Itajai fleets are already voluntarily using mitigation measures. In April 2011, based on ATF research results, new fishery regulations were passed to make mitigation measures compulsory across the longline fishery. The ATF is now collaborating with industry to implement measures on all vessels.
  • In the South African hake trawl fishery, deployment of streamer lines has been made compulsory and has reduced albatross mortality by about 90%. The ATF’s ongoing programme of training Compliance Officers will improve the uptake of these measures. Along with WWF South Africa, the ATF have strengthened the observer programme that monitors Asian vessels licensed to catch tuna within South African waters.
  • The first evidence of Critically Endangered Waved Albatross Phoebastria irrorata bycatch in the Ecuadorian longline fleet has been obtained through the ATF, and experimental work is underway to determine the effectiveness of mitigation measures in this fishery.
  • In Chile, fishery observers in all the main ports have been given extensive training to collect accurate seabird bycatch data in the trawl and pelagic longline fisheries. The pelagic longline fishery for swordfish uses a suite of three best practice measures and seabird bycatch is minimal. The ATF is conducting experiments in the southern trawl fleet to identify bycatch reduction through ‘bird scaring line’ use.
  • In Uruguay, mitigation measures have been provided to and demonstrated on both the domestic and foreign pelagic longline fleet, leading to significant reductions in bycatch in one of the world’s ‘hotspot’ fisheries.
  • In the Namibian trawl fleet, the ATF’s experimental work has shown that seabird bycatch can be brought to a minimum through the deployment of bird scaring lines, and bycatch can be significantly reduced in the demersal longline fleet. These results have been included in the draft National Plan of Action- Seabirds and National Hake Management plan with strong recommendations for mitigation adoption.

The Task Force is at a stage where much of the necessary research has been completed and significant advances in raising awareness in government and industry have been reached. Ensuring adoption of regulations in each country and adoption across entire fleets is a crucial next step, and the ATF is well-placed to carry momentum toward this landmark achievement.


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Compiled: 2008    Last updated: 2012    Copyright: 2012   

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2012) BirdLife's Albatross Task Force is bridging the gap between conservationists and fishermen. Downloaded from on 04/12/2023

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