The Albatross Task Force is a global team of specialist observers placed in key albatross and petrel foraging range in Southern Africa and South America to work at-sea and on-shore with the fishing industry. The Task Force works to establish seabird bycatch estimates and to develop and demonstrate measures to reduce incidental mortality of seabirds in longline and trawl fisheries.
In Namibia, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and BirdLife International is working in partnership with the Namibian Nature Foundation and the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources to achieve this.
The cold Benguela Current delivers nutrient-rich waters to the coast of Namibia where a range of fisheries operate including a bottom trawl and longline fishery which targets hake. Some 90 trawl vessels and 8 longline vessels are active in the hake fishery working out of Walvis Bay and Lüderitz. The majority of the catch is exported to Spain though global financial crises are forcing a change from traditional markets. Both the longline and trawl fisheries have considerable impacts on the seabird communities in the Benguela Current.
Over the last five years bottom longline fishing vessels set an average of 50 million hooks every year, each one a potential threat to foraging seabirds. Estimates suggest that over 30,000 seabirds are dragged under by baited longline hooks, or killed in collisions with trawl cables. This is amongst the highest seabird bycatch rates recorded globally and highlights the important role that the Namibian Albatross Task Force team has to play in the conservation of albatrosses and petrels globally.
- Complete annual estimate of hake trawl fishery bycatch.
- Conduct experimental mitigation research on both longline and trawl fleets and develop Best Practice guidelines for mitigation.
- Update the National Plan of Action – Seabirds and support the ministry of fisheries in developing adequate regulations to enforce seabird bycatch mitigation.
- Ongoing monitoring of seabird bycatch and effectiveness of mitigation once the regulatory framework is in place
- Develop community initiatives to construct mitigation devices
For more information on the overall programme see www.savethealbatross.net