Black-Browed Albatross

Protective Instincts

Zegrahm Contributor|April 20, 2007|Blog Post

Zegrahm Expeditions cofounders Peter Harrison and Jack Grove are frequent leaders on trips to remote destinations near and dear to their hearts—Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands, and the Galápagos. These regions are among the planet’s richest in terms of marine, bird, and wildlife species and numbers, and both are in serious need of ecological protection.

Peter has long been a passionate advocate for the Southern Ocean’s iconic albatross—the world’s largest, the longest lived, and most itinerant of the 350 (or so) species of seabirds. But over the past 20 years, the world has lost nearly half of its albatross population due to long-line fishing practices. “Every minute two black-browed albatross are killed by fishing, and that’s just one species. These birds cannot sustain that kind of mortality rate and survive,” Peter says.

A few precautions can go a long way in cutting back these numbers. Conservation authorities such as Save the Albatross, of which Peter is a founding member, call for simple global measures such as employing tori streamers, ribbon-like flags, to the stern of fishing vessels to frighten away the albatross that come for the easy feast. Setting lines and hauling fish only at night also eliminates the tragic interaction of bird and hook. When a Chilean sea bass fishery in South Georgia standardized these techniques, the number of ensnared birds dropped radically from one year to the next—from 2,000 to just two.

To further inspire his fellow travelers on our Southern Ocean voyages, Peter produces beautiful drawings of the magnificent albatross. Passengers bid on the drawings and Peter donates every cent to conservation efforts— to date, an inspirational $800,000.

Nearly a hemisphere and opposite-climate-region away, Jack Grove educates our passengers on the incredible diversity of life in the Galápagos. Having spent seven years living and researching in the islands, Jack’s comprehensive The Fishes of the Galápagos Islands, is considered the definitive guide.

Like the waters encircling South Georgia and the Falklands, the seas surrounding Galápagos National Park, and extending 40 miles out, are also protected. However, over the past several years, illegal long-line sport fishing has been encroaching on the welfare of the park’s marine life and directly defies catch-and-release regulations. In a recent issue of the Galápagos News, Jack explains: “This growing threat is unlike any other that the islands have ever faced... Efforts must begin immediately to determine how the fish brought into port by sport fishermen will be accounted for by the authorities.” The Galápagos Conservancy, along with the local sectors, including fishing and tourism, are joining forces to find the best enforceable solution.

“I’m proud that Peter and I can work together as a force for good in the protection of our favorite life forms and the places they inhabit.” As travelers, the rest of us can surely find a way to help spread the word.