South African Marine Conservationist, Bronwyn Maree, has been awarded the international Future for Nature Award for young conservationists for her work as part of BirdLife South Africa’s acclaimed Albatross Task Force. The Albatross Task Force undertakes work to prevent unnecessary deaths of seabirds during fishing operations.
Bronwyn Maree is one of three winners, chosen from a total of 126 applications from 58 countries. This prestigious international award highlights individuals who can be seen as role models who can pass on their passion and love of nature conservation to other young people, while stimulating the individual to continue their outstanding efforts in protecting endangered species. In addition to international recognition, this award carries a purse of €50 000 for each winner. The prize money will be used to test new devices for eliminating seabird bycatch in tuna longline fishing.
Over half of all the seabird species in the family that includes albatrosses are decreasing and threatened with extinction. The overriding threat to these graceful ocean wanderers is the accidental, yet deadly, interaction with longline and trawl fisheries. To address this global threat, in 2005 the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and BirdLife International established the Albatross Task Force (ATF) as the world’s first international team of mitigation instructors working directly with fishermen to demonstrate best practice measures to reduce seabird bycatch.
The ATF is active in nine countries, filling a critical gap in translating knowledge and regulations to prevent seabird bycatch into direct action onboard vessels. Mrs Maree joined the ATF team in 2008, her first job after graduating with a Masters if fisheries science from Rhodes University. She is one of the longest-serving ATF team members, and until recently was the only female instructor in a heavily male-dominated industry. She has been instrumental in leading her team to achieve significant results in albatross conservation onboard local trawl and longline fishing vessels, which are of global significance.
Since implementing ATF-recommended measures, seabird mortalities have decreased by more than 80% in these fleets, resulting in tens of thousands of threatened seabirds being saved each year. “Critically, the solutions that we advocate to fishing companies and crews are cheap, simple and don’t affect fish catches – the perfect win-win outcome” said Mrs Maree.
The Future for Nature (FFN) Foundation has recognised the role Mrs Maree has played over the last 6 years in conserving these ocean wanderers. Through this annual award, FFN supports young, talented and ambitious conservations working to protect endangered species. The Future for Nature Award encourages individuals to become conservation leaders and opens doors to an international network of dedicated conservationists who are able to provide learning support, mentoring and financial assistance.