(Shaun Hurrell, 21 Feb 2017)
Unsettling new seabird bycatch data from Chile and Argentina urges BirdLife’s Albatross Task Force and fisheries observers to act immediately to get new rules enforced. The turbulent waters around the southern part of South America are some of the most productive in the world, with upwellings of nutrients that support a whole suite of species.
Along the Patagonian Shelf to the east, around the southern tip of the continent at Cape Horn and up into the Humboldt Current to the west, huge-winged albatrosses crest waves and soar on ocean winds thousands of kilometres to find food, majestic kings of the ocean that do well in such a rich ecosystem. That is until, however, their paths cross with fishing boats, which happens all too often. Here, in the waters of the “Southern Cone” (southern South America), Chilean and Argentinian trawl fisheries target different species of hake, but are inadvertently drowning large numbers of seabirds, with albatrosses hit the worst.
Behind a trawler, seabirds are struck by cables or can get caught in nets. These wretched moments have been recorded in Argentinian and Chilean seas by the BirdLife Albatross Task Force (ATF) instructors for the last 9 years, and they have been testing and finding ways to solve the issue – seabird bycatch mitigation measures – that can reduce deaths to negligible levels.