The Benguela Current runs northward along the west coast of southern Africa and is one of the most productive ocean areas in the world attracting high densities of albatrosses and petrels. Significant seabird bycatch has been identified in this region, particularly in trawl fisheries.
The Benguela Current runs northward along the west coast of southern Africa. The upwelling of nutrient rich waters makes this one of the most productive ocean areas in the world and attracts high densities of top predators, including albatrosses and petrels. The Benguela Current also supports productive longline and trawl fisheries in the Exclusive Economic Zones of South Africa, Namibia and Angola, and adjacent international waters.
Bycatch of seabirds in the demersal and pelagic longline fisheries has been known for several years. In South Africa, the number of birds killed by the longline fishery has already been dramatically reduced as a result of work to implement a range of mitigation measures. In Namibia, where no regulations are yet in place, the demersal longline fishery is estimated to kill over 30,000 seabirds per year (Petersen et al. 2007). In addition, however, in 2005/06 it was estimated that 18,000 seabirds were killed in the South African hake trawl fishery, one of the first trawl fisheries in which this problem was identified (Watkins et al. 2008). It is estimated that 85% of birds were killed by the powerful warp cables that attach the trawl net to the fishing vessel, entangling particularly the long-winged albatrosses and dragging them under the water. The remaining 15% died entangled in nets. Of the birds killed, 70% were Shy and Black-browed Albatrosses, 14% were Cape Gannets and 9% White-chinned Petrels. All of these species are globally threatened or near-threatened. BirdLife’s Albatross Task Force has been working with the trawl fleet in South Africa since 2006 to reduce this bycatch, and began work in Namibia in 2008.
Related Case Studies in other sections
Petersen, S. L., Honig, M. B. and Nel, D. C. (2007) The impact of longline fisheries on seabirds in the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem. Pp 9–31 inS. Petersen, D. Nel and A. Omardien, eds, Towards an ecosystem approach to longline fisheries in the Benguela: an assessment of impacts on seabirds, sea turtles and sharks. WWF South Africa Report (Series - 2007/Marine/001).
Watkins, B. P. Petersen, S. L. and Ryan, P. G. (2008) Interactions between seabirds and deep-water hake trawl gear: an assessment of impacts in South African waters. Anim. Conserv. 11: 247–254.
BirdLife International (2008) Trawl fisheries cause significant mortality to albatrosses along the west coast of southern Africa. Presented as part of the BirdLife State of the world's birds website. Available from: http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/sowb/casestudy/167. Checked: 25/05/2013