The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators has embraced the arrival of the inaugural World Albatross Day, brought to life by the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP).
The global event, set to launch on June 19, the same day that the ACAP agreement was signed in 2001, has been brought about in response to the continuing conservation crisis faced by the 31 seabird species protected by the organisation.
For IAATO, a non-profit member organisation that advocates and promotes the practice of safe, environmentally responsible private-sector travel to Antarctica, the importance of World Albatross Day cannot be overstated. Albatrosses are synonymous with Antarctic expeditions, and many operators harness the power of citizen science to conduct seabird surveys, raise money for albatross conservation, financially support ACAP activities or carry researchers to remote field sites for censuses.
IAATO upholds World Albatross Day as inspiration to foster global collaboration to save these iconic birdsF
Amanda Lynnes, IAATO’s Director of Environment & Science Coordination, said: “Visiting Antarctica, the sub-Antarctic or any unique wilderness is a great privilege that comes with a shared responsibility to do so softly and with minimal impact. IAATO’s extensive operational procedures are shaped by obligations and desire to protect the places we visit. They are continually reviewed and updated, often in collaboration with external experts and governments.
“Mitigating the risk of introducing disease or invasive pests, the theme of this year’s inaugural World Albatross Day next month, is a priority.”
IAATO will be releasing a series of infographics across its IAATO and Antarctic Ambassador social media channels throughout the month of June, sharing facts about the fascinating birds and the guidelines IAATO visitors follow when observing them.
Dr Christine Bogle, Executive Secretary, Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, said: “It is wonderful to see IAATO supporting World Albatross Day, which celebrates these magnificent global travellers who require a concerted global effort to protect them.”
The theme for World Albatross Day, or #WAD2020 for those looking to join the conversation on social media, is Eradicating Island Pests. Chosen to highlight the threats albatrosses and petrels can face on their breeding islands from introduced rodents, cats and pigs, this theme also recognizes the efforts being made this year to eliminate the introduced killer house mice that have taken to attacking and killing breeding albatrosses and their chicks on Gough Island, approximately 400 km south-east of Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic Ocean and Midway Island, one the USA’s North-western Hawaiian Islands*
IAATO members acted to support the successful eradication of mice and rats from South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)**, the world’s biggest project to remove invasive species to date, but work to keep the islands safe is ongoing. Preventing the introduction of pests from vessels or visitors requires following robust protocols that are a rite of passage for anyone travelling to Antarctica or the sub-Antarctic. IAATO remains alert and responsive to what else its members can do to reduce the risk further.
IAATO has been carefully monitoring, analysing and reporting Antarctic tourism trends since 1991 as part of its commitment to the effective self-management of guest activities. Every year at IAATO’s annual meeting, members have open discussions on safety, environmental protection and self-management. Decision-making is supported by recommendations developed by IAATO’s many dedicated committees and working groups throughout the year. The meetings conclude annually with the voting in of new policies on best practice which support the association’s mission.
Ms Lynnes added: “IAATO members consist of both cruise and land operators, but it is largely a vibrant seafaring community with a deep affection for the Southern Ocean and the creatures that rely upon it.
“This is the year which also marks 200 hundred years of Antarctic discovery meaning that for more than two centuries, albatrosses have accompanied mariners as they voyaged across the Southern Ocean. This is a relationship we must never lose.”
For more information on World Albatross Day and how you can get involved, visit the ACAP website.
*Both projects are currently postponed due to COVID-19.
**A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Islas Georgias del Sur y Islas Sandwich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas.