Monday, January 21, 2008

Help for seabirds

Protective measures that go in effect this year should reduce the number of seabirds accidentally killed by longline fishing fleets, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Fleets operating on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans will adopt techniques meant to keep many albatross and seabird species from becoming snared when the birds dive after the bait on the fishing lines.

“Some of the most vulnerable seabird populations travel entire oceans in search of food. Seabird conservation will require nations with longline fishing fleets to work together to adapt their fishing practices to avoid seabirds wherever they fish,” said Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., NOAA administrator and under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere.

In November, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas adopted a requirement that the European Commission and 44 other nations use special gear and techniques to reduce the unintended catch of seabirds. The techniques include fishing at night when few birds are active, weighting fishing lines so the baited hooks sink out of reach of birds, and using devices to scare birds away from the fishing lines. These measures will govern fishing for tuna and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean.

Streamers hanging from the fishing lines are meant to keep seabirds away from baited hooks.

In December, the European Commission and 24 fishing nations that make up the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission set technical specifications for the use of bird-scaring lines and other techniques that help fishermen avoid hooking seabirds by accident. Bird-scaring lines, also called tori lines, are streamers that hang from a line attached at the stern of a fishing vessel. They help prevent birds from reaching the bait when fishing lines are set in the ocean.
Similar measures adopted in international waters around Antarctic have been effective. Since their adoption by the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Living Marine Resources in 1991, they reduced accidental seabird deaths by 90 percent.

On a related note: If you eat fish, do you consider how it's caught and the potential danger to birds?

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