Could Albatrosses Be Used As Spies On The Frontlines Of Illegal Fishing?

As it turns out, marine scientists can have spies on the frontlines of illegal fishing: albatrosses.

Drones, spy planes, and satellites dot the sky, tracking elusive subjects on land and at sea. Sometimes their targets are military operatives or shady characters. In other cases, the technologies have been adapted by scientists to uncover the secrets of wild animals. Ecologist Henri Weimerskirch has combined the two. In a novel study, the scientist turned wild wandering albatrosses into spies, using the animals’ natural movements to track illegal fishing.

True to their name, wandering albatrosses forage over an enormous area. The birds that nest in the Crozet Islands, an archipelago in the southern Indian Ocean off Africa, for instance, will fly up to 3,000 kilometers in search of food, covering more than 10 million square kilometers. Albatrosses also have a habit of congregating around fishing vessels, as these ships are sometimes the source of an easy—though potentially dangerous—meal.

Weimerskirch, research director at the French National Center for Scientific Research, thought that with the right tools, these birds could act as sentinels in the sea, tracking the activities of fishing boats operating in international waters.

Photo: Rodolfo Mari/Unsplash

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