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Urgent appeal to get seabirds off pirate hooks

Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

13th March 2004

A mass appeal to thousands of bird lovers is being made this week to help save the albatross from extinction at the hands of pirate fishermen.
More than 300,000 seabirds, including 100,000 albatrosses, are dying every year because of longline fishing, leaving 19 of the 21 albatross species in imminent danger of extinction.

The RSPB, Europe’s largest nature conservation charity, is urging members of the public to sign a petition calling for action by the United Nations against illegal fleets whose longline fishing methods are killing hundreds of thousands of the seabirds.

Longlining poses the greatest single threat to seabirds worldwide; boats cast lines up to 80 miles long carrying thousands of baited hooks and trapping the birds, which are dragged under and drowned. Dr Mark Avery, Director of Conservation at the RSPB said, “This is a senseless slaughter and one that must be halted before we lose albatrosses for good. We are at the eleventh hour and face tragic consequences if action is delayed. Albatrosses are some of the most evocative birds in the world. They are a magnificent sight, gliding thousands of miles on globetrotting journeys across the southern hemisphere. The UK government and Overseas Territories have a special role in protecting albatrosses, and must not be allowed to stand by watching their needless demise.”

The RSPB, and its partner organisation BirdLife International, have been campaigning since 2000 for improvements to longline fishing operations to reduce seabird mortality.

They also want pirate fleets eradicated and for the UK government, and its all-important Overseas Territories, to ratify a global treaty that would significantly reduce albatross deaths. Seabird mortality caused by legal longline boats using measures to deter birds, has dropped to a few hundred per year.

Mark Avery said, “We need help to force governments to combat the appalling actions of these pirates. It is astonishing that many, including the UK government, have not done so. If they do not act, many albatross species face extinction very soon.”

To sign the petition, visit

Cath Harris, Media Officer, RSPB: +44 (0) 1767 681577.