Save the Albatross

Like I said before, I’m a great fan of albatrosses. However, most albatrosses are on the IUCN red list. Out of the 22 species, 15 are categorised as vulnerable or worse, and 3 of them are critically endangered. One of their problems is their long lifespan and the slow reproduction. These Wandering Albatrosses spent the first 5-8 years at sea before they return to their breeding grounds to find a partner and start breeding. In these 5-8 years, a lot of things can happen. One of the significant threats during this time is the long-line fishing. These ships drag very long lines behind them, with hooks at a specific interval. When these lines are set, the albatrosses who follow the fishing ships see the bait and will try to catch the bait. This often results in them being captured by the hooks themselves and being dragged underwater for a long time. As they follow ships regularly, as the bird above, the chances are quite high that this happens during those first years, killing the animals before they can reproduce.

Grote Albatros; Wandering Albatross; Diomedea exulans
immature Wandering Albatross

When they start incubating, another problem occurs. Humans often accidentally introduced rats and mice to the breeding islands of these birds. As albatrosses are not used to having land predators around, they don’t try to avoid predation like that. This means the nests are easily accessible and the chicks don’t even know how to defend themselves (see here for a shocking video of mice eating an albatross chick alive).

The last main problem is the amount of plastic in the sea. Albatrosses are quite opportunistic feeders, mainly feeding on krill and fish, but trying other things as they see it. This means they can swallow large amounts of plastic, that will accumulate in their stomachs, stopping them to eat more (see here for a video of the result of this).

Fortunately several organisations work on these problems and for most of them solutions are available. Several measures can be taken to avoid catching albatrosses with longline fishing, on South Georgia they managed to eradicate all rats from the island and initiatives are made to clean the seas of plastic. However, all these initiatives cost a lot of money. The Save the Albatross campaign of birdlife international/RSPB, is an excellent way to support the protection of these magnificent animals.

With all that help, let’s hope this young bird will be able to reproduce in a couple of years and produce new offspring.


  • This is so sad but very similar to the problems many other birds face. For example, one of my favorites – vultures are continually poisened to death by farmers leaving poisened carcasses for the wolves who eat their livestock. I’m sad every time I see such a report.


    • Yes, a lot of sad stories to be told… Fortunately there are also positive stories to be told. By catch from fisheries has been reduced (in some cases like near South Georgia to near zero) and rats are getting eradicated on their breeding islands. Small steps maybe, but a lot of small steps also result in a big leap forward!
      Thanks for your reply.


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