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Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
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Biggest Twitch

 One of the many highlights of The Biggest Twitch was the day we spent on the high seas off Cape Town amongst the thousands of seabirds! Ok Alan was sick as usual but it still stands out as one of the days of 2008, to see Albatrosses so close you could almost touch them was an incredible experience and one that everyone should have the chance to see. Sadly if conservation action is not taken this spectacle could easily become a thing of the past, Albatrosses are dieing at sea, caught by industrial fishing methods and the toll is impossible to sustain. Some Albatrosses could become extinct in our life time! But there is hope as you can see below, please take a few moments to find out what is being done and how you can help.News from the Albatross Task Force
The crew of the Albatross Task Force have taken a brief break from their work on the high seas to attend the Task Force’s first ever workshop.
Delegates from the Task Force countries (South Africa, Namibia, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Chile) visited the Chilean fishing port of Coquimbo last month for a series of meetings and at-sea trials on longline fishing vessels.
From an initial start in South Africa in 2006, in less than three years the task force has been expanded to seven priority countries where albatrosses are known to die in hugely unsustainable numbers in longline and trawl fisheries.
During a hectic schedule, delegates learnt from one another sharing best practice about their successes. A significant part of the programme was also devoted to carrying out research on three pelagic longline vessels from Coquimbo.
Dr Ben Sullivan  - BirdLife Global Seabird Programme Coordinator - who developed the Task Force, said: “We are very proud that in a very short time, the Albatross Task Force has become globally recognised by conservationists and fisheries as a highly effective body finding ways to stop the needless deaths of albatrosses and petrels.
“With many successes already under our belt, the Task Force’s remit will increasingly include an emphasis on at-sea research to develop practical measures to save the lives of albatrosses before it is too late.”
Currently, 18 of the world’s 22 species of albatross are facing extinction, with four of those species being regarded as Critically Endangered, meaning these species are facing an extremely high risk of global extinction.
In longline fisheries albatrosses die when they try to steal fish bait from hooks. In trawl fisheries, albatrosses are increasingly dying when the birds collide with fishing gear.
A key way to prevent the deaths of albatrosses is to encourage vessels to deploy bird-scaring or tori lines.  These lines, complete with streamers suspended from the lines, deter albatrosses and other seabirds from approaching the boats too closely. The deployment of such measures saves the lives of albatrosses and petrels.
Although longline fisheries target fish beyond the diving depth of albatrosses, the birds are vulnerable until the bait sinks. During a packed week of research, the Albatross Task Force has teamed up with two of the world’s most eminent seabird scientists: Graham Robertson, of Australian Antarctic Division, and Ed Melvin, of the Seattle-based Washington Sea Grant. Both scientists, and the Task Force’s manager Ben Sullivan, conducted experiments to explore whether it’s possible to get the bait to sink faster, denying more birds a potentially costly meal.
"We must do everything in our power to prevent the needless slaughter of these birds: we have lost too many albatrosses in the past we are determined not to lose many more."
The Task Force members, who work in some of the harshest conditions on earth, are all committed to the conservation of the world’s threatened seabirds. During the week, the Task Force members signed a declaration, committing themselves to a programme of research to help ensure the future of the world’s most awe-inspiring birds.
During the sea voyage, the lucky crew of one vessel spotted a Chatham albatross from New Zealand. One of the world’s Critically Endangered species. Dr Ben Sullivan added: “The sighting of a Chatham albatross from the other side of the Southern Ocean inspired our teams and reminded them of the importance of our work. This day the albatross was safe, but on another day, it might have drowned on a longline. We must do everything in our power to prevent the needless slaughter of these birds: we have lost too many albatrosses in the past we are determined not to lose many more.”
Over the next few months, the Albatross Task Force teams will conduct a series of experiments, the results of which will be presented in a series of papers at next year’s meeting of ACAP: the Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels.
What can I do?
Help us save the albatross
A donation from you can help save these birds from extinction visit the RSPB's website at for details of how you can directly help these magnificent birds so in need of our protection. 


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