To celebrate World Albatross Day on 19 June, Live Ocean collaborated with a very important team including Science Alive Mātauranga, Taylormade Media and a host of others to connect New Zealanders to the story of the incredible Antipodean albatross and the dangers it faces at sea.
The Albatross is an iconic species of bird that has a strong connection with Ocean Race sailors, who see them in the inhospitable Southern Ocean.
TAKING FLIGHT – MEET ‘WHITE 928’
In December 2019, Doyle Sails had the pleasure of supporting Live Ocean in their quest to save the Antipodean Albatross – Live Ocean is a New Zealand charitable trust founded by kiwi sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke.
Every cent of each donation made to Live Ocean goes towards sourcing and applying satellite tracking systems to each Albatross, which give the government and environmental experts access to the right information. Earlier this year at the Convention for Migratory Species, 130 member countries agreed to provide these birds with the same dire conservation status as mountain gorillas and snow leopards.
Doyle Sails is proud to have contributed to Live Ocean ‘buying’ a satellite tracker for one Antipodean Albatross and earlier this year we received the welcome news our satellite tracker had been successfully attached to ‘our’ Albatross – who has been named White 928.
White 928is a 23-year-old male who lost his mate. Female Albatross fly at much higher altitudes, so their population has been much harder hit, meaning many of the males return to the Antipodes Islands looking for a mate each year, only to leave unsuccessfully again. White 928 and has previously had one long stint of six years at sea.
White has clocked one of the biggest distances, 46,55 km, since March 15 and got right into the Southern Ocean before heading to Chile for a feed.
These birds are New Zealanders – they nest and breed in the Antipodes Islands and then take flight in the Pacific. Albatrosses and other seabirds are ship followers and are accidentally caught when longlines are being set by commercial fishing vessels. It is thought climate change is driving the albatrosses to feed in more northern waters where large fishing fleets are concentrated.
Seabirds are considered an indicator of a healthy ocean – a live ocean. Yet in the last 14 years, two-thirds of the world’s breeding Antipodean albatross have died, declining from about 17,000 breeding birds in 2004 to 6,000 in 2019. We’re losing two a day on average. That’s 800 breeding birds dying every year unnecessarily. The population is in freefall, and unless immediate action is taken, we’ll lose this incredible New Zealand bird.
Fascinating Albatross Facts:
- Albatrosses don’t flap their wings – they use the updraft created by waves to surf the air, just like a paraglider. They soar up the front of each wave and down the back and can cover hundreds of kilometres in a day doing this without flapping their wings.
- If there is no wind albatrosses sit on the water and wait – this is why most types of albatrosses live in the windy southern Ocean.
- Albatrosses heart rate is the same when they are flying as when they are sitting on the water.
- Albatrosses, as well as other birds, dolphins and whales, can close down half of their brain to rest. One half of their brain is awake, including an open eye, while the other half is asleep. This helps the animal fly or swim and look out for danger while getting some rest.
- When an albatross leaves its nest as a fully grown bird, it doesn’t return to land for many years – 6 or 7 years at least. Then each year they begin returning to the place where they were born and start hanging around in groups, just like teenagers. This is when they start getting to know each other and find a mate.
- In all their years at sea, they don’t drink a drop of fresh water. They drink seawater and have a special gland to remove the salt (the concentrated salt liquid dribbles out of those big tube nostrils on their bills).
- Albatrosses have an incredibly good sense of smell – they can smell food many kilometres away. This is how they locate food. The Ocean to them is a map of smells – patterns of strong and weak smells to guide them to food. They zig-zag upwind crossing and re-crossing ‘smell streams’, until they can see what is creating the smell – a dead floating whale, a massive die-off of squid, a patch of krill or a fishing boat.
- Once they are close to their prey, they switch from smell to vision – and use their excellent eyesight to zoom in and locate the food.
Go to www.liveocean.com to find out how you can help.