ECOLOGY: The Decline of the Albatross

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Science  11 Jan 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5553, pp. 235g
DOI: 10.1126/science.295.5553.235g

Populations of the wandering albatross species in the Southern Ocean have been declining for several decades. Commercial longline fishing for tuna ("by-catch”) has been implicated in this decline; albatrosses often attempt to remove bait from fishing lines, the unsuccessful ones becoming entrapped themselves. However, because of the vast distances covered by albatrosses while foraging, it has proved difficult to establish the quantitative relationship between the distribution of longline fishing and albatross foraging.

Tuck et al. adopt a modeling approach to assess the impact of fishery by-catches on albatross populations, using 30-year data sets on albatross populations at two important breeding sites and parallel reported data on fishing activities in albatross foraging areas. The resulting simulations of albatross population dynamics appear to confirm a substantial impact of by-catch on one of the study populations (Crozet Islands), but indicate a less definite link with the observed population declines at the other (South Georgia). These models allow the integration of demographic and fishing data in a way that is impossible to achieve through direct observation, and, when developed further, will help to pinpoint regulatory and conservation priorities for the Southern Ocean. — AMS

J. Appl. Ecol. 38, 1182 (2001).

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