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Boo! ‘Scarybird’, the scarecrow of the seas, saves seabirds and helps fishers

‘Scarybird’, a kind of kite that can be attached to fishing gear, prevents Northern Gannets, gulls, and shearwaters from coming too close to fishing vessels that might otherwise catch them.

By BirdLife Europe and Central Asia & SPEA-Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds

This easy-to-use equipment is a resounding success. The ‘scarybird’ device was developed by the MedAves Pesca project, in which researchers from SPEA (BirdLife Portugal) worked closely with fishers in the Peniche region of Portugal to reduce one of the greatest threats to seabirds.

“Fishermen like the ‘scarybird’ because it’s easy to use, doesn’t affect their catch, and reduces seabird bycatch,” says Ana Almeida from SPEA: “No fisherman wants to catch birds, so having an easy and efficient way to prevent that from happening is an excellent result.”

Bycatch – when fishers unintentionally catch birds in their lines or nets – is one of the greatest threats that seabirds face. But birds are not the only ones to suffer from it. For fishers, bycatch means damaged equipment, lost bait, lost fish, and precious time wasted removing birds from nets, lines, and hooks.

Over the past two-and-a-half years, researchers and fishers involved in the MedAves Pesca project tested several measures to prevent birds from being caught in fishing gear.

One of these measures stood out above all the rest: the ‘scarybird’ device. When fishing crews used this equipment, significantly fewer birds interacted with the vessel, reducing the likelihood that they would be caught as nets were launched. What’s more, the ‘scarybird’ is already showing promising results on other types of fishing gear, too!

A fundamental pillar of this project is the engagement of the fishing community. To make the project’s impact even greater, SPEA installed interactive information stands in two local fishing associations’ headquarters. At these interactive stands, fishers can discover how to set up a ‘scarybird’ and other measures to ensure a sustainable future for both birds and fishers.

“We’re very grateful to this fishing community, which has embraced projects like MedAves Pesca,” says Ana Almeida. “Now we want to encourage more and more fishermen all over the country to implement these good practices.”

More information here:

Image credits: ‘Scarybird’ device ©SPEA-Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds

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