Gillnets killing a minimum of 400,000 seabirds every year16/05/2013 08:25:51 Gillnets: A fatal attraction for seabirds
May 2013. A new study, published by BirdLife scientists and marine biologist Dr Ramunas Žydelis, reveals that a staggering 400,000 birds are killed each year in gillnet fisheries. This number exceeds the estimated toll of bird deaths documented in longline fisheries. This is the first time the massive scale of this problem has been laid bare - making it clear that urgent action is needed to tackle it.
Dr. Žydelis stated: "Unlike longline and trawl fisheries, for which there are simple technical solutions available to reduce seabird bycatch, research into similar measures for gillnets has been very limited to date and further efforts are urgently required."
Gillnets are fixed gear used across the world, largely in coastal fisheries, to catch a variety of different fish. They are generally made from fine nylon, making them virtually invisible underwater. Not surprisingly, this poses a particular problem for diving seabirds, which readily become entangled and drown when pursuing their prey underwater.
Baltic Sea a major problem
While remedial action has been limited thus far, authorities are starting to take notice. The EU Plan of Action, launched last November to minimise the bycatch of seabirds in fishing gears, highlighted gillnets as a priority for action. However, this plan is essentially voluntary, so BirdLife is calling for binding measures to be delivered under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) to improve data collection and provide funding for research into how best to prevent seabirds being killed in gillnets.
Longline issues addressed
He continued: "BirdLife aims to work together with gillnet fishermen to develop workable solutions to this problem. It is imperative that the new EU Plan of Action opens up resources to find technical fixes and fill gaps in our knowledge. This is vital for species like Steller's eider, long-tailed duck and velvet scoter, all of which are globally threatened and declining at an alarming rate in the Baltic Sea. Gillnet bycatch - the sleeping giant of seabird threats - must now be tackled with the utmost urgency."