New fishing regulations to protect critically endangered albatross

Just 130 Amsterdam Island albatrosses fly the skies of the Indian Ocean. A critically endangered species since it was first discovered 25 years ago, the birds face three major threats which could wipe them off the face of the earth: disease, cats, and tuna boats.

But now that last threat could be minimized, as new fishing regulations offer vital protection to albatrosses and other endangered seabirds.

The rules, recently enacted by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, require longline fishing vessels to adopt at least two of four different methods to reduce the number of birds accidentally caught in their nets. Longline fishing, typically used to catch tuna and swordfish, employs extremely long fishing lines (which can often run several miles in length) embedded with hundreds or thousands of baited hooks.

The four methods to reduce bird bycatch include setting hooks at night (when birds are less active), adding a special line called a bird streamer to keep birds away from hooks, adding weight to make hooked lines sink more quickly, and dyeing bait blue to make it less visible in the water.

So that's the good news. Now if only Amsterdam Island can get rid of its feral cats, and if disease doesn't keep killing off albatross chicks, the species might actually have a chance.