The tale of two birds

27 January 2019 | Environment

Two bird rings that were received by fishermen last year, tell the story of how they ended up at the Albatross Task Force (ATF) in Namibia.

An adult Cape gannet was found in August last year after being caught on a fishing hook by a long line vessel, and a juvenile Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross was caught in October ­during fishing operations in a trawl net.

Luckily wild birds are permanently tagged by registered ringers and each metal ring has a unique number to keep track and study the birds' movements, habits, breeding, deaths and survival rates.

The ring found on the albatross belongs to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). This specific Yellow-nosed albatross was ringed as a chick on January 2017 on Nightingale Island in Tristan Da Cunha Island groups. The bird travelled an impressive 2 940km from where it was first ringed, in 576 days ago.

Fifteen out of 22 albatross species are considered at risk of extinction due to several threats, including plastic pollution, habitat disturbances and incidental mortality due to interaction with fishing gear. The Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross which occur in the southern Atlantic oceans between South America and Southern Africa and live up to 70 years, is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Cape gannet

The Cape gannet was ringed by Pete Bartlett, a Senior Fisheries Research Technician ofthe Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) in March 2000, on Ichaboe Island off the coast of Namibia. It was ringed as a chick and was found 130 km from Ichaboe, 18 years 7 months and 20 days later.

This information was revealed by the South African Bird ringing Unit after ATF Namibia sent the ring code.

Cape gannets face threats such as pollution, human disturbances and bycatch from the fishing industry. They are also listed as endangered by the IUCN. They only breed on three Namibian islands and three islands in South Africa. However, they also occur in coastal waters off the gulf of Guinea and in the coastal waters off Tanzania. Cape gannets can live up to 40 years.

The ATF, managed by the Namibia Nature Foundation, liaise closely with the MFMR, the Fisheries Observer Agency and commercial fishermen to raise awareness about seabird conservation and the implementation of seabird bycatch mitigation measures to ensure sustainable reduction of the incidental seabird mortality in Namibian fishing grounds, which ultimately promotes sustainable harvesting of our marine resources and health of our ocean ecosystem.

The ATF encourages the public to contact them if they have any questions or information relating to seabirds or conservation on 061 248 345 or email to [email protected]

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