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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 September 2006, 00:51 GMT 01:51 UK
Action plan for iconic seabirds
Black-browed albatross (Image: Grahame Madge/Save the albatross)
Threatened icon: Black-browed albatross (Image: Grahame Madge/Save the albatross)
Urgent action is needed to prevent further declines in dwindling numbers of albatrosses and petrels in the South Atlantic, wildlife groups have warned.

A report by campaigners outlines measures to halt the seabirds' decline, including tighter controls on fishing.

They say about 100,000 birds drown each year on longline fishing hooks.

Conservationists say the UK has to take the lead because a third of the world's albatrosses nest on South Georgia, the Falklands and Tristan da Cunha.

The report was a result of a collaborative effort between the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), BirdLife International and Falklands Conservation.

'Crucial time'

Grant Munro, chief executive of Falklands Conservation, warned that albatrosses numbers were in rapid decline.

He said: "The islands' black-browed albatrosses has declined by more than 18 pairs every day over the last 10 years.

"This report comes at a crucial time to save this magnificent bird and it pulls together international efforts to protect them across the southern oceans," Mr Munro added.

An international pact aimed to protecting the species of seabirds came into force in 2004.

The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) listed "direct contact with fishing operations, eating or being entangled in marine debris, pollution and over-fishing of their prey" as the main threats that faced the birds.

To date, there are 11 signatories to the agreement, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, France, New Zealand and the UK.

The wildlife groups said the measures outlined in the report would improve existing efforts to protect the endangered species. They list 118 recommendations, including:

  • more effective management in regional fisheries
  • a dedicated UK-based representative for overseas territories on ACAP
  • eradication of rodents from breeding sites
  • regular monitoring of all species deemed to be at risk

Call for action

Black-browed albatross (Chris Harbard)
Black-browed albatross with young (Image: Chris Harbard)

Recently, a number of high-profile figures have voiced their concern about the plight of the seabirds, including Prince Charles, naturalist Sir David Attenborough and sailor Dame Ellen MacArthur.

Alistair Gammell, director of the RSPB's International Division, hoped the report would act as a call to action for the UK government.

"The level of support shown by the UK government to this report will be a clear indication of its commitment to protecting the exceptional biodiversity of its overseas territories and, in this case, arguably their most spectacular and iconic inhabitants."




SEE ALSO
Albatross numbers take steep dive
04 Jun 06 |  Science/Nature
Albatross chicks attacked by mice
24 Jul 05 |  Science/Nature
MacArthur gives albatross support
27 Apr 05 |  Science/Nature
Fishing for a solution
09 Mar 05 |  Magazine
Tracking reveals albatross habits
14 Jan 05 |  Science/Nature

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