Albatross Voyage end leads to next step in World campaign
Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand
20th June 2004
A 100,000 signature New Zealand organized international petition will this week be presented by sailor John Ridgway to a meeting in Rome of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The petition has one name for every albatross killed each year.
The presentation follows the year-long round the world Save the Albatross voyage, which highlighted the slaughter of seabirds by longline fishing and promoted the Save the Albatross petition.
The voyage in John's yacht, the English Rose VI, which visited Wellington in January, ended in London yesterday (Friday 18 June UK time).
Forest and Bird and Birdlife International organised the petition calls for urgent action to save albatross species from extinction as part of the voyage. It now has more than 100,000 signatures and closed today (Sunday 20 June).
"Simple mitigation measures can dramatically reduce albatross deaths from drowning on longline hooks. Yet governments are not requiring fishers to implement these measures nor outlawing flags of convenience. More international co-operation and effort is also needed to apprehend and prosecute pirate fishers," Forest and Bird Conservation Manager, Kevin Hackwell said today.
"The next step is for governments and FAO to give higher priority to controlling fishing to stop the unacceptable and unnecessary killing of seabirds.” Mr Hackwell said.
"We are very pleased that amongst the 100,000 signatures which will be presented in Rome are those of our Prime Minister, Helen Clark, the Minister of Conservation, Chris Carter, and the Minister for the Environment, Marion Hobbs.” Mr Hackwell said. "We look forward to New Zealand leading the international pressure to slash seabird deaths and combat pirate fishing."
Longlining poses the most serious threat to albatrosses and every year causes the deaths of more than 300,000 seabirds including 100,000 albatrosses. All 21 species of albatross are threatened with extinction and 18 of these occur in the Southern Ocean.
Longliners set lines up to 130 miles long carrying millions of baited hooks to catch bluefin tuna and Patagonian toothfish, both of which are also endangered. Many vessels are pirates, operating under the flags of convenience of countries with no interest in responsible fishing.
Next week John Ridgway and his wife Marie Christine will join Birdlife International representatives, to present the petition to a meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome from 24-29 June. The meeting is to review progress on the FAO's International Plan of Action to combat Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (pirate) Fishing.
Dr Mike Rands, Director of BirdLife International said: "All of the world's 21 species of albatross face a very real risk of extinction over the next few years. John's heroic voyage has drawn the world's attention to the possibility of a bleak future where these magnificent seabirds no longer grace our oceans."
Dr Mark Avery, Director of Conservation at the UK's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said: "One man has, almost single handedly, set a magnificent example to powerful governments all over the world. This seabird slaughter is senseless and avoidable and must be halted before we lose albatrosses for good. We are at the eleventh hour."
John Ridgway said: "I have been in the Southern Ocean with albatrosses for the past six decades and they have often inspired me when I have been low. We have been at sea for 327 days and it has been a very hard voyage for me. If I were to die in the next five years, I think the cause would be this voyage,"
"I am desperate to help the albatross and absolutely thrilled that so many people have signed the petition to save the species. This has made the whole thing worthwhile."
John Ridgway, 66, from Ardmore, north-west Scotland, left London last July in the English Rose VI, sailing to Cape Town, Melbourne, Wellington, Port Stanley and back. He was seeking longline fleets hunting prized fish for lucrative sushi markets in Japan and the US. The voyage sought to have pirate longline fleets banned and action taken to close down their black market in fish.
The Save the Albatross Ridgway voyage followed the circumpolar track of the Wandering Albatross stopping at key ports, islands and fishing grounds to engage with the public, politicians, and fishers to present the case for albatross protection. Birdlife International partners have hosted each of these landfalls.
Forest and Bird is the New Zealand partner of BirdLife International and hosted the Wellington visit in January. Prime Minister, Helen Clark farewelled the ketch and her crew when they left Wellington for the Falkland Islands. Two Forest and Bird representatives were part of the crew on the Melbourne-Wellington leg of the voyage, and a third joined the Wellington-Falkland Island leg.
Dr Euan Dunn, head of marine policy at the RSPB (UK) said: "After drawing inspiration from the sea all his life, John's journey is a powerful gesture that will highlight not only the plight of albatrosses but also man's failure to look after the seas properly. But above all it's a wake-up call to crack down on pirate fishing before albatrosses and other seabirds vanish from the planet."
* For the petition in support of albatrosses see www.forestandbird.org.nz. The petition closes at midnight Sunday 20 June.
* John Ridgway's trip is entirely self-funded. He has been accompanied by his wife, Marie Christine, and a handful of volunteers.
* The expedition has the support of BirdLife International's Save the Albatross campaign. More information can be found at: <http://www.forestandbird.org.nz or http://savethealbatross.birdlife.org>
Forest and Bird, RSPB and BirdLife want mitigation measures - deterrents to prevent birds being caught - built into fishing regulations worldwide. These measures include:
* Bird scaring lines with coloured, flapping streamers.
* Weighted lines to make baited hooks sink faster.
* Thawed, not frozen bait because it sinks more quickly.
* Stern mounted tube to release fishing line deep under water
* Dyeing bait blue to camouflage it.
* Setting fishing lines at night, when the large albatrosses do not feed.
* Timing fishing to miss the birds' breeding season.
* Avoiding the discharging of fish waste when lines are being set.
* An on-board observer to guarantee that fish catches are albatross-friendly, enabling markets and consumers to avoid illegally fished products.
* Seabird mortality caused by legal longline boats using deterrents has dropped to sustainable levels but many thousands of seabirds are still needlessly killed by legal fishing boats which have not yet adopted these simple deterrents.
* The wandering albatross's status as a sacred creature was enshrined in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It is the largest bird, by wingspan (11ft), in the world.
* There are 21 species of albatross in total, all of which are globally threatened. Of those, 18 are found in the Southern Ocean.
* Albatrosses are being killed faster than they can replace themselves. The proportion of albatross species threatened with extinction increased from one third to all species between 1994 and 2003.
* Albatrosses mate for life, the larger species usually producing one chick just once every two years. They may be up to 15 years old before they breed and have a lifespan of at least 50 years. Most, however, are now dying well before they reach that age.
* Of the 59 albatross and petrel species listed as globally threatened, 28 are regularly killed by longline fishing methods.
* The Amsterdam albatross is the most threatened species with just 90 left in the world. Of those, only around 20 pairs breed in any one year. Other seabirds are also at risk, particularly the spectacled petrel of which up to 700, from a total population of only 10,000, die annually on longline hooks.
Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP)
* ACAP requires signatory states to implement conservation measures including the reduction of seabird by-catch from longline fishing; research and monitoring of seabirds; the eradication of introduced species such as rats and feral cats at breeding sites; the reduction of disturbance, habitat loss and marine pollution.
* The UK became the sixth country to ratify in April after South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Ecuador and Spain. Ratification by the UK included the Overseas Territories of the Falklands, British Antarctic Territory and South Georgia/South Sandwich Islands but not Tristan da Cunha, which is crucial and which is due to ratify soon.
* Pirate fishing is responsible for one third of seabird deaths by longlining.
* The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says pirate fishing accounts for around one quarter of the world's fish catch and poses the biggest single threat to global fish stocks.
* Catches of Patagonian toothfish by illegal vessels from 1999 to 2000, using few or no seabird mitigation measures, were similar to the legal catch.
* Pirate fishing has doubled in the last ten years. The pirate haul of the toothfish is worth an estimated £300m annually. Toothfish are worth £8 per kilo and numbers have been seriously depleted by pirate fishing in the waters surrounding Crozet Island in the Southern Ocean. A single bluefin tuna has been known to fetch up to US$100,000 on the Japanese market.
* The targeting of toothfish in the Southern Ocean by pirates started in the mid-1990s and developed into a gold rush. It is a highly organised criminal activity, with many vessels hiding behind flags of convenience including those of Togo and Bolivia, which are not party to international fisheries' agreements - and using front companies to disguise the identity of those who profit from it.
* Key ports for landing illegally caught fish are in states not party to CCAMLR, including Tanjon Priok (Indonesia), Hong Kong and Singapore.
* The British Antarctic Survey says that Southern Ocean longline fishing fleets are losing around £10m a year because albatrosses are entangled on their lines preventing fish being caught
Flags of convenience
* Most pirate ships fish under a flag of convenience (FoC) - the flag of a country with no legal access to fisheries nor any interest in following regulations. Most are owned by companies based in eight territories: Taiwan, Spain, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, China and Equatorial Guinea.
* The FAO has urged responsible fishing nations to take measures to implement its International Plan of Action (1999) to combat illegal fishing.
* Forest and Bird, the RSPB (UK) and BirdLife want fishing nations to bar FoC vessels from their ports, ban the trade in their products and impose severe penalties on offending vessel owners.
Forest and Bird is the New Zealand partner of BirdLife International. BirdLife International is a global alliance of national conservation non-governmental organisations working in more than 100 countries in five continents who, together, are the leading authority on the status of the world's birds, their habitats and the issues and problems affecting bird life.
Contact: Kevin Hackwell, Conservation Manager, 04 385 7374, 021 227 8420
Film footage is available, in Betacam SP format, of John's voyage, of albatrosses and of longline fishing operations.
For information on John Ridgway in the UK or to arrange an interview with him please contact: Cath Harris, Media Officer, Policy PR, RSPB, The Lodge, Sandy SG19 2DL.
Tel: 00 44 1767 681577 x 2554
Mobile: 00 44 7739 921464
Fax: 00 44 1767 692365