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Slaughter of albatrosses

2 December 2005

New research confirms the scale of slaughter of albatrosses

Shy Albatross breeds at the Auckland and Antipodes Islands in the New Zealand Subantarctic Tony Palliser/BirdLife International.

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New South African research confirms the appalling death toll of albatrosses at the hands of the lucrative longline fishing industry operating in the country's waters, including Shy Albatrosses that breed in New Zealand.

In excess of 100 longlining vessels currently operate in South African waters, fishing for tuna, hake, shark and swordfish. While fishing, the vessels set lines up to 100km long, each with tens of thousands of baited hooks, attracting seabirds, including albatrosses.

Samantha Petersen, BirdLife South Africa/WWF Responsible Fisheries Programme Manager, said: "Our research shows that for every fishing day, Korean-flagged tuna longline vessels fishing in South African waters kill around ten albatrosses, sometimes more. A third of these albatrosses are Shy Albatross that breed in New Zealand.

"South Africa has signed international agreements protecting albatrosses, the fisheries are bound by conditions on their fishing licences to ensure the protection of albatrosses and yet every time a longline vessel sets its hooks it spells doom for even more birds.

"Nineteen of the world's 21 species of albatross are already threatened with extinction - largely as a result of longline fishing - and every year 100,000 albatrosses die on the end of longline hooks. It is unthinkable to stand by and let these birds slip into oblivion when we have the means to save them; all that seems to be lacking is the will."

These findings coincide with the arrival in Cape Town of competitors in the Volvo Ocean Race, which will take crews through some of the world's richest albatross waters off the South African coast.

Speaking from on board the Brasil 1 entry in the Volvo Ocean Race navigator Adrienne Cahalan said: "I've just heard the shocking news about new South African research showing the appalling slaughter of albatrosses at the hands of the longline fishing industry.

"This is my fifth time sailing through the South Atlantic and the Southern Ocean and I have seen fewer albatrosses than at any other time since 1993.

"It is time for all nations to join the fight to save these precious birds and manage the ocean's resources in a way that sustains people and wildlife."

In 2000, BirdLife International launched the Save the Albatross campaign to ensure the survival of albatrosses threatened with global extinction because of longline fishing. Forest and Bird is the New Zealand Partner of BirdLife International and runs the Save the Albatross campaign in New Zealand.

Volvo Ocean Race officially adopted the Save the Albatross campaign in October, which has already attracted the support of a range of high-profile individuals, including HRH Prince Charles, Sir David Attenborough, Dame Ellen MacArthur, and Simon Cowell.

The Save the Albatross campaign is supported by the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006. Visit www.savethealbatross.net for more information. Volvo Ocean Race competitors are scheduled to be in Wellington in February 2006.

ENDS

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