Very early in the morning, well before sunrise on 21 August 2008, a hardy group from among the delegates attending the Fourth Meeting of ACAP’s Advisory Committee joined South Africa’s F.R.S. Africana in Cape Town’s harbour in Table Bay for breakfast and to view albatrosses and petrels in the South Atlantic.
The Africana is a fisheries research vessel of the South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism’s Marine and Coastal Management Branch. The at-sea outing was sponsored by South Africa, the host nation for the Advisory Committee meeting being held in Somerset West over the period 22-25 August 2008.
After about four hours of sailing the Africana reached the trawling grounds in the “Cape Valley” region south-west of the Cape Peninsula and met up with the Forest Lily, a demersal stern trawler belonging to Irvin & Johnson, a large South African company working in the fishing and food-supply field. The delegates were then treated to the tremendous spectacle of thousands of seabirds, including seven ACAP-listed taxa (see list below), wheeling about and landing on the sea behind the trawler. The most abundant ACAP species present was the Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris, along with smaller numbers of three other albatross taxa, both species of giant petrels Macronectes spp. and of the White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis. The most abundant seabird present (perhaps as many as ten thousand individuals) was the Pintado or Cape Petrel Daption capense. Two sea mammal species were seen on the voyage: Dusky Dolphin Lagenorhynchus obscurus and Cape Fur Seal Arctocephalus pusillus.
A special and unexpected touch was the presence of a welcoming banner displayed on the trawler’s bridge, bearing the words “Working to Save Albatrosses and Petrels”, along with the logos of ACAP, DEAT and I&J. Irvin & Johnson is taking the reduction of seabird mortality by its trawling vessels seriously, and it was heartening to see that the Forest Lily had paired streamer lines in place as it trawled, thus keeping the attendant hordes of seabirds safely away from its trawl warps.
Following an excellent lunch provided aboard, the Africana returned to Cape Town, punching its way through a choppy sea to arrive back in the harbour some time after dark. All the ACAP delegates who joined the cruise wish to thank the officers and crew of the Africana, I&J and the host country through DEAT-MCM for providing an unforgettable excursion.
John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, posted 23 August 2008
*Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris
*Shy/White-capped Albatross T. cauta/steadi
*Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross T. chlororhynchos
*Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross T. carteri
*White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis
*Northern Giant Petrel Macronectes halli
*Southern Giant Petrel M. giganteus
Pintado/Cape Petrel Daption capense
Prion Pachyptila sp.
Soft-plumaged Petrel Pterodroma mollis
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus
Great Shearwater P. gravis
Wilson’s Storm Petrel Oceanites oceanicus
Cape Gannet Morus capensis
Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea
Subantarctic Skua Catharacta antarctica