Bycatch in fisheries is considered the greatest threat to seabirds while at sea.

Nearly one-third of all seabird species are considered threatened with extinction, including 17 of the 22 albatross species and 7 petrel species. Because of their large wingspan, albatrosses and large petrels are more likely to collide with cables running from the fishing gear to the vessel.  Seabirds are more common in temperate regions, therefore fisheries north of 23°N and south of 23°S latitudes pose the greatest threat to these large seabirds. However, in all latitudes there are seabirds attracted to fishing vessels, leading to a high risk of getting caught or entangled.

Risks for sea birds

Close-up Of A Young Black-browed Albatross Chick

Black-browed albatross chick

Seabirds target bait and discards when fishing gear is deployed and hauled, often resulting in the bird becoming hooked or entangled. In longline fisheries, seabirds forage on bait and can become hooked and dragged underwater, while in in gillnet and trawl fisheries they scavenge fish caught in the nets which leads to collision with fishing gear (net cables) and entanglement in the nets themselves, all of which can lead to drowning and subsequent death.

Mitigation Methods

In general, seabird mitigation methods involve decreasing the attractiveness of the vessel and gear to seabirds and decreasing the amount of time that fishing gear is near or at the surface where it is most accessible to diving birds. The less fish discards there are on or around the vessel the less seabirds there will be during the set and haul. In addition, the quicker baited hooks and nets sink and the quicker they can be retrieved when being hauled to the surface, the fewer seabirds will get hooked or entangled.

Fishery Impacts