Fowl Deeds

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At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came ;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God's name.

It ate the food it ne'er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit ;
The helmsman steered us through !

And a good south wind sprung up behind ;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariner's hollo !

In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine ;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white Moon-shine.'

`God save thee, ancient Mariner !
From the fiends, that plague thee thus !–
Why look'st thou so ?'–With my cross-bow
I shot the ALBATROSS.

(Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner)

Albatross! It's what's for dinner. At least that's what appears to be happening to the waved albatrosses of the Galapagos Islands. South American fisherman have been inadvertently catching the large birds in their nets, then quite advertently eating their catch. When they aren't just plain catching them, that is.

In just one year, fisherman caught and killed about 1 percent of the world's waved albatrosses, the largest bird in the famed Galapagos Islands, according to a study in the Sept. 26 issue of the journal Biological Conservation.

"If that happens every year, that is not sustainable," said Jill Awkerman, a Wake Forest University graduate student and lead author of the study. "In a matter of decades, you could be talking about extinction."

The researchers put identification bands on 2,550 albatrosses living on Española Island. In 2005, fisherman returned bands from 23 birds that had been killed, corresponding to a death rate of nearly one in every 100 birds.

While surveying Peruvian fishing communities where the albatrosses forage for food, observers found that some albatrosses accidentally became tangled in submerged gillnets. Instead of releasing the birds, many fishermen killed them for food. Some even intentionally caught the albatrosses on baited hooks.

Have you ever heard of a scientist who wasn't seriously worried about whatever subject they are talking about? They are like farmers and the weather, I swear. Anyway, they've started sending out people to talk to the fishermen to tell them not to eat albatross. Which will undoubtedly lead to one thing. The bands won't be turned in any more.

Oh well, all this fuss has made me hungry. I'm going to go fix a big pot of snail darter chowder.

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4 Responses to Fowl Deeds

  1. BubbaB says:

    Um, so, we catch albatrosses, tag them, and then see how many of those albatrosses get, uh, caught? Anybody see a problem with this?

    Assuming that the less-than-bright albatrosses are the ones caught to begin with, you must assume that they would be easier to catch (even inadvertently) later on, too.

    It is also not a safe assumption that 1% of the birds had been caught. “23” is an insignificant number, especially for an environmental-type study. What if there were only 25 birds caught, but 23 of them had bands? What percentage are we talking about of the TOTAL population? An insignificant amount.

    Just trying to get people to look at these things more critically…

  2. Gaius says:

    Want some of this snail darter?

  3. BubbaB says:

    We can split a bowl of snail darter chowder and a fish taco made of silvery minnow…

  4. Gaius says:

    That’s the appetizer. Roasted spotted owl for the main course!

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