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A bird of good omen

I watched a programme on BBC4 the other night in which
Dame Ellen Macarthur found out more about albatrosses.

Photo of black-browed albatross courtesy of Save the Albatross.
The facts are appalling! One-hundred-thousand albatrosses die each year on longline fishing hooks. They are being killed in such vast numbers that they can’t breed fast enough to keep up and now they are now in danger of extinction. Commercial fishing boats in the southern oceans set fishing lines 80 miles long. Each line carries thousands of hooks baited with squid and fish which attract albatrosses. They dive for the bait, get caught, dragged below the water and drowned.

‘So what?’ the cynics among you may say. ‘Who gives a toss about a few seabirds?’

I do. Biodiversity matters to me, and more to the point, it matters to the world. It’s a measure of its health and is a measure of our compassion to the other living things we share the planet with. I want to know that these huge and beautiful birds (which have lifespans similar to humans) will continue to soar and glide over the southern oceans long after I am dead.

The solution is really simple, if fisherman can bring themselves to give a toss; they can make simple and cost effective changes to their boats to keep albatrosses away from the baited hooks. Like so many problems in the world, it just takes a little education. Save the Albatross!

And lo! the Albatross proveth a bird of good omen, and followeth the ship as it returned northward through fog and floating ice. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Rime of the Ancient Mariner ( 1798 )

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