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Fish Tales – Episode 6: Alvidas and Viktoras from Lithuania

Welcome to another episode of Fish Tales. This time, we are in Lithuania.

By Julius Morkunas & Naïma Crotti

Being a fisher and caring for nature in Lithuania

«My name is Alvidas. I live in Lithuania. I am 72 years old, and I have been a fisherman for over 50 years. » When I go fishing, I always notice seabirds flying around. I love watching them, especially sea ducks. Unfortunately, we also see birds like guillemots, grebes and cormorants caught in our traps in the lagoon, particularly during summer. When we find them, even if it takes some time, we do our best to set them free. Sadly, on some occasions, it’s just too late and they drown… This is terrible, because as much as I believe every animal needs to be preserved, and I would never intentionally cause them any harm; it’s very difficult to find a solution to bycatch – catching unwanted animals while fishing. The appearance of seabirds is hard to predict, sometimes weeks pass by without seeing any birds, and other times we find some of them drowned in our set-nets. I cannot imagine there is any viable way to avoid this… Honestly, I doubt there is any way to counter bycatch.   

Viktoras Telsinskas ©Julius Morkunas

«My name is Viktoras. I’m a fisherman and I live in Lithuania. » One of my favorite parts of fishing is to observe beautiful seabirds flying, especially during spring when the sea is calm. I love all seabird species… well except for one, the Great cormorant. While fishing, we rarely bycatch seabirds. For example, this year, so far only one bird was caught in our nets. But eventually, if we find one, we untangle it and release it back to the sea. Unfortunately, if they are dead, we hand them over to the ornithologists. For me, it’s important to help protect seabirds from bycatch, that’s why we work hand in hand with ornithologists that help us set up practices to avoid this issue as much as we can. But practically speaking, I don’t think it’s possible to find the perfect solution to avoid birds from getting caught in our nets. Nonetheless, we are open to try anything specialists like BirdLife have to offer to find a way to protect both seabirds and our job.  

Viktoras and Alvidas have been collaborating with LOD (BirdLife Partner in Lithuania) to collect data on seabird bycatch. This information can be used by the Lithuanian Government to inform the establishment and implementation of more effective management measures to ensure the coexistence of fishing and marine life.

Untangling the net: tackling bird bycatch in Baltic gillnet fisheries

 This Fish Tale is brought to you by the project Untangling the net: tackling bird bycatch in Baltic gillnet fisheries funded by the Baltic Sea Conservation Foundation. The project is collecting data on seabird bycatch in the Lithuanian coastal fleet and in the Curonian Lagoon to better understand the problem, developing mitigation measures for gillnets, and trialling them with participating fishers to determine their effectiveness in reducing bycatch. It is also working to raise awareness of the issue among decision-makers and to improve fisheries management policy and measures in Lithuania. The project is carried out by BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, Lithuanian Ornithological Society (LOD) and Roal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

Image credits: Alvidas Kazlauskas © Julius Morkunas

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Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.