Older and wiser: Albatrosses avoid fishing vessels as they mature

Eaglehawk Wanderer Possession island
A juvenile Wandering Albatross at sea, photograph from Richard Webber

Henri Weimerskirch (Centre d’Études Biologiques de Chizé, La Rochelle Université, France) and colleagues have published open access in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. on the changing interest in fishing vessels of great albatrosses (in the genus Diomedea) over their lifetime.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Animals have to develop novel behaviours to adapt to anthropogenic activities or environmental changes. Fishing vessels constitute a recent feature that attracts albatrosses in large numbers. While they provide a valuable food source through offal and bait, they cause mortalities through bycatch, such that selection on vessel attraction will depend on the cost–benefit balance. We examine whether attraction to fishing and other vessels changes through the lifetime of great albatrosses, and show that attraction differed between age classes, sexes and personality. Juveniles encountered fewer vessels than adults, but also showed a lower attraction to vessels when encountered. Attraction rates, especially for fishing vessels, increased through immaturity to peak during adulthood, decreasing with old age. Shy females had lower attraction to vessels and shy males remained at vessels longer, suggesting that bolder individuals may outcompete shyer ones, with positive consequences for mass gain. These results suggest that attraction to vessels is a learned process, leading to an increase with age, and is not the result of preferential attraction to new objects by juveniles. Overall, our findings have important conservation implications as a result of potential strong differential selection on the risk of bycatch for age classes, personality types, populations and species.”

The rate of attraction to fishing vessels and other vessels of Wandering Albatrosses across different age brackets


Weimerskirch, H., Corbeau, A., Pajot, A., Patrick, S.C. & Collet, J. 2023. Albatrosses develop attraction to fishing vessels during immaturity but avoid them at old age. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 290http://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2022.2252

27 January 2023

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