Fishing fleets blamed for not taking simple steps to prevent bird deaths

Fishing fleets are responsible for killing up to 320,000 seabirds every year because they don’t use simple measures to stop birds chasing bait or being caught in fishing lines.
That’s according to a study being presented at a world conference tomorrow, which argues that albatross, petrels and shearwaters are being pushed closer to extinction.
The report claims that many fishing fleets are failing to monitor how many seabirds are killed and don’t implement methods to reduce the problem, such as bird-scaring lines and weighting hooks.
The report, by researchers from RSPB and BirdLife International, estimates that the number of bird deaths every year ranges between 160,000 and 320,000. They say that because information about bird deaths is absent around Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Norway, the Mediterranean and distant Asian fishing grounds, its impossible to get a more accurate figure.
“It is little wonder that so many of the affected seabird species are threatened with extinction,” said Orea Anderson, lead author of the study, talking to The Guardian. “Their slow rate of reproduction is simply incapable of compensating for losses on the scale this study has demonstrated.”
The report claims that dying fish bait blue so its less visible to birds, setting lines at night when birds are less active, setting lines deeper underwater or controlling discards of unwanted fish could helpsave species of seabird from extinction.
Areas that have already introduced tough measures to slash the number of bird deaths have been successful; around South Georgia the number of deaths dropped by 99%.
Cleo Small, co-author of the study, said: “The findings of this review places a heavy onus on the forthcoming EU plan of action for seabirds to deliver a robust set of remedial measures capable of reducing the impact of longline and other fisheries on seabird populations.”

Image by Peregrine’s Bird Photography

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