Not only are the ocean and its denizens in danger today from the likes of plastic and consumers’ appetite for fish. Seabirds like albatross are endangered by fishing lines, with up to 300,000 of them dying each year when they become caught in hooks on commercial bait lines. These can be several kilometers long and are studded with over 1000 bait hooks, say scientists with the RSPB, who worked for four years to compile data from fisheries around the world.
As Dr. Orea Anderson notes to the BBC:
One Spanish longline fleet on the Gran Sol grounds off the coast of Ireland, for example, could be responsible for killing about 50,000 birds annually, according to the review.
The Japanese tuna fleet was also highlighted; it is estimated to have claimed 20,000 birds each year and to have had the largest impact on albatrosses.
Noting that the massive numbers of seabirds dying is not sustainable, Dr. Anderson says there’s a simple solution — using “bird scarers where the lines enter the water” or “weight lines so the bait hooks are beyond the reach of a seabird’s dive” — small changes that can make more than a huge difference.
The albatross family is becoming threatened faster than any other family of birds. Seventeen of the 22 species of albatross are globally threatened with extinction, an increase from just seven in 1994.
Albatrosses are being killed in such vast numbers that they can’t breed fast enough to keep up, putting them in real danger of extinction.
Without help, losses could become so great that recovery may never be possible for these majestic ocean wanderers.
For those whose only familiarity with the albatross is in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, here is a video of these beautiful birds and the sad fate too many meet due to longline fishing hooks:
Photo by angrysunbird.