What are the Solutions?
To prevent birds swallowing the baited hooks before they have sunk below their reach, many simple measures have been devised some of which are cheap and easy to implement. Examples include:
- Towing bird-scaring (or tori) lines behind the vessel. These have plastic streamers tied to them that flap in the wind and scare birds away from the baited fishing line.
- Using an underwater setting tube. These set the fishing line underwater out of reach of the birds.
- Tying enough weights to the fishing line so that it sinks more quickly out of reach of the birds.
- Using thawed not frozen bait as it sinks more quickly.
- dying the bait blue. This puts birds off eating it.
- setting lines at night. Most albatrosses feed mainly by day.
BirdLife believes measures like these should be as routine a part of longlining as the line itself, and international agreements have been developed to encourage their use.
Several fisheries have international regulatory bodies. They set fishing quotas and limits and encourage the implementation of best fishing practices. (For example, The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) regulates fishing in Antarctic waters and requires the use of seabird mitigation measures.)
These regulatory bodies can introduce measures like setting fishery or vessel specific by-catch quotas or closing fisheries seasonally or temporarily to protect the economic interests of fishermen or particular wildlife (for example, to concentrate fishing to times of least impact to seabirds).
A key aspect of BirdLife's Campaign is to work with fisheries regulatory bodies to encourage the use of seabird mitigation measures.
BirdLife also recommends that fishing vessels should employ independent onboard scientific observers. These observers can monitor and assess the scale of seabird by-catch and train fishermen in the appropriate use of prevention measures.
Observers can also supervise the capture, packing and sealing of this legally caught fish and then issue a certificate stating its provenance and enabling it to be labelled as "albatross-friendly". Consumers then have the option to buy fish caught in this manner. Such a catch documentation scheme is in operation for legally caught Patagonian Toothfish in CCAMLR (Antarctic) waters.
Many fishing vessels operate illegally outside of the above agreements and regulations. These Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) or "pirate" fishing vessels, are responsible for killing thousands of seabirds each year.
Albatross Task Force
BirdLife wants to create a team of people across the world to work with fishermen on shore and at sea. (The Albatross Task Force was known as Operation Ocean Task Force until March 2006).
Spreading the word
Fishermen are often unaware of the simple, cost effective techniques that can - if used - rapidly reduce albatross deaths.
Dramatic results can be achieved by showing them how to use these techniques and telling them about how albatross numbers are declining.
There are observers on some boats to record seabird deaths from fishing, but there is a real shortage of a team of qualified at-sea instructors to train fishermen and get something practical done.
The Albatross Task Force will be that much needed team.
Going to extremes
This is no easy job. Our team will be prepared for:
- Going to sea on commerical longline fishing boats in all weathers in some of the wildest oceans of the world
- Using the right language and skills to build respect and credibility with fishing crews
- Listening to fishermen's experience to feedback into the work
- Convincing fishermen on how to use practical techniques that avoid albatrosses dying horrible deaths on hooks
- Targeting problem fisheries, where we know lots of albatrosses and seabirds die
- The ATF team will be managed by BirdLife Partner organisations around the world. It will be co-ordinated by the Global Seabird Programme from its headquarters at the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK)
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