‘Albatross cops’ fitted with radar detectors to spot illegal fishing

Birds were ‘perfect candidates’ for experiment, researchers say

Zoe Tidman
Friday 31 January 2020 13:54
Albatross are attracted to fishing boats
Albatross are attracted to fishing boats

Albatross have been fitted with technology to help in the fight against illegal fishing in a new trial.

Researchers tracked the birds as they flew over the Antarctic Ocean and were drawn towards fishing boats.

The study found that the albatross successfully “detected and localised fishing vessels over large oceanic sectors”.

“Our results demonstrate the potential of using animals as ocean sentinels,” the researchers said.

The birds were “perfect candidates” for the experiment because they “fly great distances and are particularly attracted by fishing boats”, according to the France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), who were involved in the study published in the US journal PNAS.

Henri Weimerskirch, the lead author, told AFP: “They are like drones, only intelligent.”

Nearly 170 albatross were fitted with devices for six months in the “Ocean Sentinel” project conducted by a team from France and New Zealand, the CNRS said.

Researchers said that illegal fishing threatens the ocean’s natural ecosystems, estimating that over one third of fishing boats in international waters were undeclared.

The study concluded that technology can open up the potential to use “seabirds to patrol oceans” for conservation purposes.

CNRS said the birds were fitted with a device containing a GPS system to track their location and a radar detector to intercept signals from vessels.

The research centre said that the technology “could be adapted for other marine species, like sharks and sea turtles”.

Conservationists have warned that illegal fishing puts endangered sea creatures at risk of extinction, including wedgefish and guitarfish, nicknamed the “rhinos of the ocean”.

In a move to combat illegal fishing last year, Indonesia sunk over 50 foreign ships they claimed were operating unlawfully.

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