Albatrosses are infamous birds in literature, but today they are finding another practical role in the Indian Ocean: rooting out illegal fishing.
These majestic birds naturally fly long distances, making them the perfect candidates for surveying the seas. Researchers from the Ocean Sentinel project equipped almost 170 albatrosses with logging devices to monitor 47 million square kilometers of the Indian Ocean for boats without automatic identification systems (AIS).
How does it work? Albatrosses are particularly attracted by ships and, when they fly near one, their loggers use a GPS and a unique miniature radar detector to capture and transmit the location of the ship. If it does not correspond with a registered AIS, the ship could be fishing illegally. Initial reports show that one-third of the ships encountered were unregistered.
This innovative project takes advantage of the albatross’ natural flight and behavior patterns to track illegal fishing that could potentially affect the health of the species as a whole.
It can be debated whether it’s acceptable to place devices onto wild animals, but at the very least the devices seem too small and non-invasive. Plus, these birds are playing a critical scientific role and helping stop illegal fishing!