Practices by fishing vessels

Reducing seabird kills in longline fisheries is helped by

  • adding weights to branch lines to make them sink faster
  • lines of streamers trailing behind vessels over the area where hooks enter the water
  • setting lines in total darkness

The combination of line weighting, night setting and streamer lines can reduce mortality of most seabird species by up to 90%. Retaining all offal or managing offal discharge to avoid discharge during setting or hauling of lines, can also help reduce seabird interactions and bycatch.

The setting of longlines at night, with effective streamer lines in use and weights near hooks, would probably reduce seabird deaths to levels that are safe for most seabird species. Unfortunately most fisheries have shown reluctance to embrace wholeheartedly effective mitigation which has meant that other actions have been necessary.

International agreements

As well as the existence of seabird bycatch mitigation measures and the research that underpins the efficacy of these measures, international agreements are necessary to achieve global objectives regarding seabird conservation in longline fisheries. Several initiatives exist. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has requested that all fishing nations produce national plans of action to minimise seabird mortality in their longline fisheries. The FAO requests that nations assess the extent of the problem, adopt standard mitigation measures as an interim measure, conduct research into mitigation practices by fishery type, adopt independent observer programs and include seabird conservation provisions in fisheries management legislation.

The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) has been developed in recognition of the fact that albatrosses and petrels traverse the waters of many nations, not only those from their country of origin. The Agreement applies to nations with jurisdiction over breeding populations and to distant water, and other fishing nations whose vessels interact with albatrosses and petrels while fishing. ACAP seeks to achieve and maintain the favourable conservation status of albatrosses.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) is a multi-lateral organisation that is responsible for managing fisheries in the Southern Ocean. In 1995 CCAMLR developed a conservation measure especially designed to minimise seabird mortality in toofish longline fisheries which occur principally around sub-Antarctic islands and in waters near continental shelf margins. Further improvements to that measure and additional conservation measures have been made in the years since then. In the past few years CCAMLR-managed fisheries have achieved zero or near-zero levels of seabird bycatch, due primarily to the effectiveness of such measures and other complenentary systems implemented in CCAMLR fisheries.

CCAMLR meets every two years to review trends in seabird bycatch and to discuss advances in mitigation technologies and practices and how best to achieve seabird conservation objectives.

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