Global task force to save the albatross wins backing of The Prince of Wales
The Prince of Wales and record-breaking sailor, Ellen MacArthur, are together to trumpet global efforts to save one of the world’s most endangered yet iconic birds.
Nineteen of the 21 species of albatross are facing extinction because of a fishing method that kills 300,000 seabirds and hundreds of thousands of sharks and turtles each year.
Longline fishing, much of it by illegal pirates, has also caused massive declines in the much-prized Patagonian toothfish and several species of tuna fish.
At a special gala dinner tonight (April 27), The Prince of Wales will rally support for Operation Ocean Task Force, a new RSPB initiative to appoint a team of experts to train fishermen on how best to prevent seabird deaths. They will work in hotspots around the world where albatrosses are most in danger.
The Prince, who has long campaigned for actions to prevent the extinction of the albatross, has raised awareness of the issue around the world. Just last month The Prince visited the Royal Albatross Centre on the Otago Peninsula in New Zealand, the only mainland breeding colony of the birds in the world.
The Prince said: “To me, the albatross may be the ultimate test of whether or not, as a species ourselves, we are serious about conservation: capable of co-existing on this planet with other species.”
Ellen MacArthur set a world record for sailing around the world in February. Her yacht was accompanied by albatrosses on many occasions and she believes that saving the albatross is critically important.
She said: “The albatross is one of the most amazing birds in existence; it is truly breathtaking. I had several follow me at various points along my journey and they certainly gave me company on a very solitary trip. I hope that we still have the opportunity now to save these magnificent creatures before it is too late.”
The RSPB and BirdLife International have been campaigning for many years to halt the slaughter of albatrosses and other seabirds in longline fisheries. They want to halt the relentless population declines by ensuring that all the world’s longline fishing fleets use mitigation measures to prevent seabirds being hooked and drowned. They are also campaigning to eliminate pirate fishing vessels which are hindering international efforts to address the problem.
Graham Wynne, Chief Executive of the RSPB said: “The plight of the albatross is one of the most critical issues we have faced and the support of The Prince of Wales and Ellen MacArthur is invaluable. There are 100,000 albatrosses being slaughtered by longliners every year and without urgent action most of them will soon be gone for good.”
The Save the Albatross dinner takes place at Trinity House, London. Professor John Croxall, Head of Conservation Biology at the British Antarctic Survey, and renowned naturalist and seabird artist Peter Harrison MBE will also speak. An auction of wildlife paintings will follow, together with the auction of a three-week Save the Albatross Antarctic cruise with Peregrine Adventures.
Cath Harris | alfa