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NZers To Join Round The World Albatross Expedition

NZers To Join Round The World Albatross Expedition

July 27, 2003 - Wellington

MEDIA ADVISORY

New Zealanders to join round the world albatross expedition

Two New Zealanders will be joining one of Britain's most experienced sailors on a Round the World sailing expedition to highlight the plight of the albatross. Forest and Bird staff member Carol Knutson and member Brent Stephenson will be joining renowned sailor John Ridgway on the Pacific legs of his round the world expedition.

New Zealand is the albatross capital of the world.

John Ridgeway left from the remote, north-west of Scotland today New Zealand time, at the start of a year long expedition to report and film illegal fishing operations that are pushing 17 of the world's 21 albatross species to the brink of extinction.

Ridgway will highlight the plight of albatrosses whose numbers have plummeted since longline fishing methods were introduced in the 1980s, a technique especially favoured by pirate fishing vessels. More than 300,000 birds, including 100,000 albatrosses, are lured onto baited hooks each year, either drowning or dying of their injuries. Ridgway wants pirate boats, many flying under flags of convenience, banned and international action to close down their black market in fish.

Ridgway's trip will be made up of seven legs, each one highlighting the predicament of different albatross species. Sailing via Spain's Canary Islands to Cape Town, he will then track east in the Southern Ocean, following the westerly-wind driven route of the Wandering Albatross. This will take him to Melbourne and Wellington in New Zealand, and then on to Port Stanley in the Falklands, South Georgia and Gough Island - which lies in mid-Atlantic 1,600 miles off the South African coast - before returning to London from Cape Town, next July.

Carol Knutson will join the voyage on the Melbourne to Wellington leg and Brent Stephenson will join the voyage on the Wellington to Falklands leg. The expedition aims to arrive in Wellington in December.

John's wife, Marie-Christine, also a sailor and author, will be on board with him, alongside volunteers.

Longline fishing poses the greatest threat to the future of albatross species. Up to a billion baited hooks are deployed each year by the world's longline fleets. Lines up to 80 miles (130 km) long are used to catch Bluefin Tuna and Patagonian Toothfish, both of which are also endangered. Pirate ships are seizing the opportunity in poorly policed waters to ignore mitigation measures while fish stocks last.

The Amsterdam Albatross is the most threatened species with just 90 left in the world. Of those, only 13 pairs breed in any one year. Other seabirds are also at risk, particularly the Spectacled Petrel, of which up to 1,000 die annually on longline hooks out of an estimated total global population of 2,500 - 10,000.

Ridgway's expedition has the support of BirdLife International's 'Save the Albatross' campaign. [2,3] Forest and Bird is the New Zealand associate in BirdLife's global network of bird conservation organisations and will welcome English Rose VI in Wellington when it arrives.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1) Photographs of albatross species and petrels, and of the harm longline fishing can cause seabirds are available upon request. Forest and Bird will endeavour to make available photographs of the launch.

2) BirdLife International is a global alliance of conservation organisations working in more than 100 countries who, together, are the leading authority on the status of birds, their habitats and the issues and problems affecting bird life.

3) For details of BirdLife International's Save the Albatross campaign, please visit: http://savethealbatross.birdlife.org

4) Their yacht, English Rose VI, will have satellite links and the expedition will have its own website, www.savethealbatross.org. The BBC is planning to film most of the journey.

Barry Weeber Senior Researcher Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society PO Box 631 Wellington New Zealand Phone 64-4-385-7374 Fax 64-4-385-7373 www.forest-bird.org.nz


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