14/12/2006
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Stamp out Albatross slaughter this Christmas

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Black browed Albatross: (photo: Grahame Madge, RSPB).

Help stamp out albatross slaughter during the season of goodwill, that's the festive plea from the RSPB, which is launching an appeal to raise funds to protect these fantastic birds by asking people to send in their stamps from their festive post.

It is estimated that this year 100,000 albatrosses will die on the end of a longline hook - innocent victims of the longline fishing industry. On Christmas Day alone an estimated 274 albatrosses will drown, and by the time the bells of Big Ben ring out 2006, a further 1644 of these great birds will fail to see another year.

The RSPB's Grahame Madge, said: "Christmas and New Year in the UK is the height of summer in the Southern Ocean and albatross parents will be battling against the elements raising their single chicks as they have for millions of years.

"However, albatrosses now have a problem as many birds die trying to grab an easy meal from the baited hooks meant for target fish, such as tuna or toothfish.

"Sadly, the accidental slaughter of these birds at the hands of the longline fishing industry means that too many albatrosses will be orphaned or widowed, leading to the ongoing population crash in the numbers of these great birds."

Thankfully, solutions exist. The RSPB, in conjunction with BirdLife International, has created the Albatross Task Force - a team of international observers to advise crews of longline fishing vessels on the simplest and most effective ways to avoid accidentally catching these iconic birds. Techniques such as using weighted lines to make baited hooks sink more quickly and the use of bird-scaring (tori) lines to deter the birds from the stern of fishing vessels are simple, yet effective measures.

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Sarah Kennedy, Radio 2 presenter, has been a key supporter of the campaign to protect albatrosses. She said: "Not many people will be fortunate enough to see an albatross, but everyone can take a role in trying to help them.

"I'm delighted to tell people that I'm supporting the RSPB in its bid to save these fantastic birds. If everyone could be encouraged to send in their stamps to the appeal rather than putting them in the bin, these birds would have a brighter future.

"The RSPB will sell the stamps to dealers and an auction house to raise much-needed funds for the Save the Albatross Campaign. For example, Â50 will buy a tori line for a longline fishing vessel."

People with stamps can send them to: RSPB Stamps, PO Box 6198, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire LU7 9XT. Money raised from stamps will be used to help fund the Save the Albatross Campaign. People wanting to donate first-day covers or stamp albums can send them to: Bill Lawrence, RSPB, The Lodge, Sandy, Beds SG19 2DL.

Grahame Madge added: "With postal services expected to handle in excess of 100 million cards each day until Christmas, just a tiny proportion of these stamps could make a huge difference to many albatrosses next year. This simple action could be one of the best Christmas presents anyone can give."

To find out more about the work of the RSPB/BirdLife International's Save the Albatross Campaign, log on to: www.savethealbatross.net.

Written by: RSPB