How Antarctic Expeditions Assist in Albatross Conservation

November 7, 2014

WANDERING_ALBATROSS

Image credit: Andy Stringer

At the time of writing, over 3.9 million albatross have died as a result of longline fishing since 2000.

That number increases rapidly each day, with another albatross death every two minutes. Seventeen of the 22 species of albatross are currently threatened with extinction, with longline fishing the main threat to the population.

Quark Expeditions is a proud sponsor of the Underwater Bait Setter project, an initiative by a team of engineers, business managers and scientists working together to reduce the risk to albatross while benefitting the fishing industry.

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300,000 Seabirds Caught In Longlines Each Year

About 3 billion hooks are set annually in longline fisheries. Branch lines are often set by hand and lay on the water, where they are visible and tempting to seabirds. Fishing regulations require the use of deterrents such as trailing bird scaring streamers, or setting at night when albatross are less active, but each regulation makes fishing more difficult and isn't very effective in reducing albatross deaths.

As a result, about 300,000 seabirds are caught on the hooks or tangled in the lines each year. Most of these bycatch seabirds are albatross, a species that have just one chick every one to two years. The problem is compounded by their inability to reproduce if one mate is lost. They simply cannot keep up with replenishing the population at the rate at which they are dying.

How Does the Underwater Bait Setter Help Antarctic Wildlife?

The underwater bait setter is an innovative new piece of fishing equipment that sets longline hooks underwater, to prevent seabirds from accidentally being caught by fishermen.

baitsetter

Image credit: Underwater Bait Setter

Known by engineers as the BS30, the device is the first of its kind and uses a unique hook deployment method to set hooks underwater safely, and without disrupting fishing. It actually benefits the fishing industry by reducing the amount of bait lost to seabirds, but more importantly, it prevents baited hooks from becoming a tempting treat for albatross and their kin.

See how underwater bait setters reduce albatross death by longline fishing: 

Supporting Underwater Bait Setter

As a leading polar travel company, we take great pride in the environmental stewardship and conservation initiatives we support. We have raised over $230,000 for the Underwater Bait Setter organization since becoming involved, and are thrilled to have seen its progress as it developed and tested a much-needed technology to benefit albatross populations. Our funding has helped pay for research/development and operational testing of the underwater bait setter device. We will now continue to support the organization as it moves into implementation by gifting a new device to an industry-leading New Zealand tuna fishing operation.

"The difficulties we have encountered are amazing, but it is also amazing how far we have come," a representative of Underwater Bait Setter shared with us. "We’ve solved a lot of problems and the machine is now a finely engineered product, it looks complete!"

Last year alone, Quark Expeditions raised $58,014 for Underwater Bait Setter with Antarctic summer fundraising. We encourage others to lend support to help bring the device to the longline fishing industry and contribute to solving one of the world’s big conservation issues, the preservation of albatrosses and their chicks.

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