IT’S ESTIMATED WE’RE LOSING 2,300 OF THESE BIRDS A YEAR. THE POPULATION IS IN FREEFALL.UNLESS WE ACT IMMEDIATELY WE COULD LOSE THIS INCREDIBLE BIRD.
Photo credit: Jodi Osgood-Webber
THE RACE TO SAVE
THE ANTIPODEAN ALBATROSS
Sailors who’ve spent time in the southern ocean have a special connection to toroa/albatrosses. While they’re battling the winds and waves of the most inhospitable ocean in the world, an albatross will often appear. These enormous seabirds, with their massive three-metre wingspan, make using the wind look effortless. These great ocean voyagers are the most threatened group of birds in the world, and the number one threat to them is being killed by the long lines from fishing boats. There are twenty-two species of albatross in the world, and fifteen are facing extinction.
Aotearoa is the albatross capital of the world with 17 species found throughout our waters and 11 species breeding here. The Antipodean albatross is the most threatened with Department of Conservation (DOC) estimates show we are losing 2,300 birds a year of this one population. They’re on the fast track to extinction.
Live Ocean has been working with Southern Seabirds Solutions and the government to assist the long term monitoring programme for the Antipodean albatross. In 2019 we raised funds for GPS satellite trackers that show where the albatrosses are feeding and where they overlap with the fishing fleets. Live Ocean supported the 20/21 voyage to the Antipodes Islands which saw the largest ever deployment of satellite trackers on an albatross population in this country. Gathering this data is vital. Live Ocean also champions the plight of the Antipodean albatross in the public arena.
Since 2004, it’s estimated 35,000 of these amazing birds have died. The population is in freefall and unless we act immediately and with urgency, we will lose this incredible bird in as little as twenty years. In February 2020, Antipodean albatross were listed in Appendix 1 of the Convention on Migratory Species, the world’s most serious threat classification system for migratory species, alongside other well-known species such as blue whales and snow leopards. They have New Zealand’s most serious threat classification and are listed as ‘nationally critical’.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
- Learn about the issue, talk to friends, politicians, restaurants and supermarkets.
- Start asking for albatross-safe tuna to show your concern.
- Be discerning. Support fishers using albatross-safe fishing methods.
These birds are New Zealanders. They breed on our Antipodes Islands and the Pacific and Tasman Seas are their home range. Albatrosses and other seabirds are ship followers and are accidentally caught when longlines are being set by commercial fishing vessels. It is thought climate change is driving the albatrosses to feed in more northern waters where large fishing fleets are concentrated. There are proven solutions which would stop deaths tomorrow, including setting fishing lines at night, adding weights near each hook, and using a bird-scaring line. This is a global issue and New Zealand’s fleets should set an example for the world.
“As a country we need to turn this around. That means continuing to collect data on where the birds are dying and being prepared to act on it so we’re not tracking these birds to extinction. We can’t be the first country in the world to lose an albatross species. That’s not a race New Zealand should win.”