World Albatross Day is coming – 19 June!

The Guardian newspaper has consistently printed stories about the growing Chinese industrial fishing fleets. ‘It’s terrifying’: can anyone stop China’s vast armada of fishing boats?’ appeared on the 25th of August 2020.

A few weeks later another article appeared titled, ‘Chinese fishing armada plundered waters around Galapagos, data shows’.

Just last week, The Guardian printed another article about the growing number of Chinese industrial fishing boats in the Pacific and the threat to the tuna. It stated that the number of Chinese boats had increased by 500% in a couple of decades. Another article addressed that these huge industrial boats switch off their trackers to avoid detection while they are engaged in illegal fishing.

All of this is really more than sad. It would not matter to me which country was doing it. About a year ago I wrote a blog on the labelling for sustainable fish that is sold in supermarkets. I am now wondering about those labels and whether or not all of the fish sold that carry them is actually sustainable. How much of that fish comes from the Chinese fishing trawlers? How do we really know? The whole notion of whether the fish is sustainable or not is linked to the theme and events for this year’s World Albatross Today which is coming up on 19 June.

The theme of World Albatross Day for 2021 is Ensuring Albatross Friendly Fisheries. The Albatross Task Force has lots of information on its website. There are tabs that come down and some of them will discuss the points I mention below in great detail.

The mitigations against harming birds and stopping them from being bycatch are relatively easy to do so why don’t these huge industrial fishing ships want to help? In many instances, organizations will provide streamer lines for free for the boats! They include

  • streamer lines – those shiny coloured lines that will scare the birds away
  • setting their lines at night (gosh that sounds easy doesn’t it?)
  • shielding the hooks
  • integrated weight lines
  • using external weights for the lines

The other aspect of World Albatross Day is to introduce the general population to these beautiful, large, and gentle sea birds. Today, I will focus briefly on the Tristan Albatross which is the feature image of this blog. The Tristan Albatross are critically endangered because of longline fishing and mice. Yes, mice.

“Tristan da Cunha-12-010-albatross on Nightingale Tristan in background-Credit Paul Tyler and Alison Rothwell)” by darwin_initiative is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Tristan Albatross is listed as critically endangered because of its rapid population decline over the past 70 years. The two main causes are being killed by longline fishing boats and the chicks being killed by mice introduced to the islands by humans. The population of Tristan Albatross is mostly located on Gough Island. Do you know where that is? I wasn’t sure so I looked it up on Google Maps.

There are roughly 1750 pair of breeding Tristan Albatross on the Tristan da Cunha Islands and, in particular, Gough Island. Gough Island is a UK Protected Territory. At present, the decline is roughly 3.5%, according to Birdlife Australia, a year. Just like the Royal Albatross at Taiaroa Head, the Tristan Albatross breeds every other year. The single egg is laid in January and the chick, if it survives, will fledge in November. Juveniles return to the colony on Gough Island between the ages of 3-7 years. Most do not breed until they are 10 years old. The oldest recorded Tristan Albatross was 38 years old.

This is not a video for the faint of heart. It shows a small mouse killing a Tristan Albatross chick. You can certainly skip this one but it is good to know that humans introduced the predators onto the island in their boats. There have been plans to eradicate the mice from Gough Island. They were put on hold last year because of the pandemic. The little mice grow into mega-sized mice. They are really quite frightening. The plan continues to relocate the birds while the mice are killed.

Here is a short video clip showing how the Tristan Albatross flies over the ocean:

They are beautiful birds and I cannot possibly imagine a world without them.

A quick check in at the Cowlicks Osprey Nest showed a fish – albeit small – had been brought in for breakfast today so that is a good start.

The Ks on the Redtail Hawk nest of Big Red and Arthur are just antsy to fledge. K1 now has five dark bands on her tail. She is really a BIG girl – no doubt about the gender there. And I suspect that K3 is a little, little male. K2 – who knows?

Tiny Little Bob over on the Foulshaw Moss Osprey Nest continues to hold its own.

Over on the Achieva Credit Union Osprey Nest, Tiny Tot is really hoping that a fish is coming in to the nest now that the rain has started in St Petersburg.

Thanks so much for joining me today. Will introduce you to another albatross tomorrow but we will also take a good look at what is happening on some of these Osprey nests as fledge watch hits them – and, of course, I will be checking on the Ks every ten or so minutes. Fledge looks eminent. Will it be K1 or K2? Last year, K2 fledged first. K1, also a big female, was the last to fledge and she did so reluctantly. Sadly, J1 flew into a window of the Weill Building, the same building that E2 flew into and died. Oh, I wish they would put up bird friendly windows so near to where these juveniles fledge – but that is a complaint for another day.

Take care!

Thanks to the following for their streaming cams where I grab my screen shots: Achieva Credit Union, Cornell Bird Lab and RTH, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, and Cowlitz PUD.

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