Obituary: Arūnas Grigaitis 1961 – 2020
At BirdLife, we have been greatly saddened to learn of the passing of pioneering Lithuanian fisherman Arūnas Grigaitis while fishing at sea. As many of our supporters will know, we have been working since 2014 to try and identify technical solutions to seabird bycatch in gillnet fisheries. Arūnas was the very first fisherman to agree to collaborate with us in this mission to prevent the deaths of birds, not only in the Baltic Sea, but across the globe.
It goes without saying that we cannot hope to solve the problem of bird bycatch in fisheries without the co-operation of fishers – and all too often environmentalists and the industry can focus on their differences rather than their common goals. Arūnas was a truly open-minded skipper, and tolerated all manner of messing with his nets, from white mesh panels woven into the top, to black and white flags attached to them, to lights strung along them like Christmas decorations. Since beginning our work in Lithuania, we’ve been able to reach out to many more fishers, but without Arūnas, it’s unlikely any of this would have been possible.
Julius Morkūnas, who heads up our bycatch work for the Lithuanian partner Lithuanian Ornithological Society - LOD, paid tribute to Arūnas:
“Arūnas always supported our work, and generously gave insights on how best to work with fishing gear. He was well-known in the small-scale fishing community and was well respected as someone who had time to help everybody. His help has been invaluable in better understanding the seabird bycatch problem in Lithuania – the data he helped collect will inform conservation for many years to come”
While our search for a gillnet bycatch solution goes on, so does our gratitude to Captain Grigaitis, who from a small boat based in the picturesque Curonian Spit village of Juodkrantė, sought to advance solutions to one of the trickiest marine conservation problems. We send our condolences to his family.