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Saving the Albatross


Americas Cup Media Conference for the International Campaign to save the albatross

The New Zealand media launch of the International Save the Albatross Campaign will be hosted by Louis Vuitton Cup at 10.30 AM, Thursday, 19th December at the America’s Cup Louis Vuitton Media Centre.

All media are invited.

Representatives from America’s Cup syndicates, the Whitbread Round the World Race and the Volvo Ocean Race will attend Thursday’s media conference for the Save the Albatross Campaign. The international group of sailors will be asked to sign giant postcards for the Minister of Fisheries and the embassies of Japan, Taiwan, Australia, South Africa, Spain, Chile and Argentina requesting that seabirds are kept off the hook. These countries either have important long lining fleets or their exclusive economic zones contain important bird areas.

At length did cross an Albatross:
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God's name.

"God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!--
Why look'st thou so?"--With my cross-bow
I shot the ALBATROSS. From Rhyme of the Mariner by Coleridge

The albatross has a poignant and important role in sailing. Help to preserve this great symbol of the Southern Ocean.

The sequence of events: Marcus Hutchinson, Louis Vuitton, will introduce the event. Eric Pyle, Forest and Bird’s National Conservation Manager will give a short presentation on the state of the albatross and solutions to the seabird crisis. The following sailors will give a brief statement as to why they support the campaign:, Kevin Shoebridge (OneWorld) and Joan Vila (Alingi), Mark Orams (Team New Zealand). All sailors will be asked to sign large albatross postcards. These will be presented to the embassies of Japan, Taiwan, Australia, South Africa, Spain, Chile and Argentina.

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Importance of this issue for New Zealand

Seabird conservation is a major issue for New Zealand says Eric Pyle, Forest and Bird's Conservation Manager, speaking on behalf of BirdLife International, a global alliance of conservation groups represented in over 100 countries. "New Zealand has more endemic albatross and petrel species than any other country. So its no wonder that seabird scientists call New Zealand the seabird capital of the world", says Mr Pyle.

Some albatross and petrel species have declined by 90% over the last 60 years, mostly due to longline fishing. "Extinctions will occur unless there are major changes to fisheries practices around the world, including in New Zealand", said Mr Pyle.

"Forest and Bird is proud to be part of the BirdLife International campaign to save the albatross" said Mr Pyle. "An international approach is essential because these majestic birds breed and fly over huge distances between different parts of the world, so there are many longline fisheries that pose a threat to their survival".

A key threat to seabirds is illegal longlining or 'pirate fishing' which is estimated to kill 100,000 birds in the Southern Ocean every year. Tougher international measures are required to combat pirate fishing on the high seas and ensure markets are closed to illegally caught fish.

"Over 10,000 albatrosses and petrels are killed annually in New Zealand waters, and an estimated 300,000 are killed worldwide every year," said Mr Pyle. "The global death toll of albatross and petrel is completely unacceptable," he said.

"Efforts by some fishing boats show that it is possible to reduce seabird by-catch to very low levels", said Mr Pyle. The Chartered Japanese Tuna Boats fishing in New Zealand waters have reduced seabird by catch from 4,000 birds to just 12 individual birds. "The methods to reduce bycatch involve simple techniques and careful management", said Mr Pyle.

Many New Zealand boats have been slow to follow suit and are not required to adopt the same measures in New Zealand waters required of fishing Japanese boats. For example, in 2001 a single New Zealand fishing boat killed over 300 seabirds in a two-week fishing trip.

Forest and Bird calls on the New Zealand Government to develop an effective national plan of action to combat seabird by-catch in New Zealand waters. This plan must as a minimum adopt international best practice measures.

Campaign targets The overall Save the Albatross campaign target is to eliminate seabird by-catch. This goal is achieveable. For example, New Zealand vessels fishing for toothfish in the Ross Sean have not caught an albatross or petrel on longlines in 3 years.

To achieve these goals the following methods need to be implemented: All longline fishing boats in New Zealand waters must adopt international 'best practice' measures to reduce seabird bycatch including avoiding certain areas at certain times of the year, night setting, weighted hooks and the use of tori lines and preventing discharge of offal. Limits on seabird numbers caught which are reduced towards zero over several years. When these limits are exceeded the fishery is closed. Creation of closed areas or marine reserves over parts of the ocean where seabirds congregate and areas where bycatch has been high in the past. All threatened albatross and petrel species need to be listed as threatened species under the New Zealand Wildlife Act. 100% Observer coverage in all longline fisheries to ensure that mitigation measures are used and that the number and species caught is identified.

Key achievements in the Birdlife International Campaign to date 1998: Technical Review by BirdLife for UN-FAO of longline fisheries worldwide, as part of the basis for the FAO's International Plan of Action (IPOA-Seabirds).

1999-2001: BirdLife helped to shape the international Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) under the Bonn Convention. ACAP was opened for signature in June 2001.

2000-2001: BirdLife influenced an FAO International Plan of Action on Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported or 'pirate' fishing (adopted by FAO in 2001).

2000-2001: Developing a Global Environment Facility (World Bank) application to promote seabird-friendly longline fishing in developing southern hemisphere countries.

2001: Hosted workshop in Uruguay to promote solutions to the seabird by-catch problem in South America.

Ongoing: BirdLife Partners around the world are advising and assisted governments in drafting seabird regulations and training curricula for fishers and scientific observers.

Which species are affected? The majority of albatross species and many petrel and other seabird species are caught by longlining and are in grave danger of extinction. The majority of these species are found in the Southern Ocean. New Zealand is especially important for breeding albatross species.

New Zealand: Twelve breeding albatross species (more than any other country): Chatham, Antipodean, Northern Royal, Southern Royal, Campbell, Buller's, Wandering, Grey-headed, Salvin's, Black-browed, Shy and Light-mantled

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