Contact: Eric Gilman 808-988-1976 egilman@xxxxxxxx NEW TECHNOLOGY MINIMIZES SEABIRD DEATHS IN HAWAII LONGLINE FISHERY Underwater Fishing Device is Found to Drastically Reduce Bycatch Honolulu, Hawaii, March 20, 2002 - Today, the National Audubon Society announced that new device which keeps fish bait and hooks out of sight of birds will greatly help avoid seabird mortality in the Hawaii tuna longline fishery. The equipment, called an underwater chute, enables longline fishing vessels to catch tuna and swordfish without killing the thousands of albatross that get caught on baited hooks and drown each year. First developed in 1995, the underwater setting chute releases baited hooks underwater, out of sight and reach of these diving seabirds. It has been tested in New Zealand, and is currently undergoing trials in Australia's tuna longline fisheries. Trials were completed off the coast of Hawaii last week. "Preliminary analysis of the research data indicates the chute was significantly more effective at avoiding seabird deaths when compared to a control of setting under normal tuna fishing practices," said Eric Gilman, project manager for the trial of the chute and Pacific representative for Audubon's Living Oceans Program. Of the man-made and natural threats to seabirds, one of the most critical global problems is incidental mortality in longline fisheries. Birds most at risk from death in Hawaii's and other North Pacific longline fisheries are petrels and albatross, including the Short-tailed, Black-Footed and Laysan albatrosses. The birds get hooked or entangled when gear is being set and are dragged underwater and drown as the fishing gear sinks. The results of last week's Trial indicate when setting under control conditions without the underwater setting chute, seabirds contacted 6.5% of baited hooks set, resulting in the mortality of 24 seabirds. When setting with the chute, seabirds contacted 0.2% of baited hooks set, and no birds were caught or killed. "This project demonstrates that collaboration between an environmental NGO, fishing industry, and government management authority is effective and should serve as a model for future efforts," continued Audubon's Gilman. According to Jim Cook, owner of the fishing vessel Katy Mary and representative of the Hawaii Longline Association, "the data indicate that the chute is effective at avoiding seabird interactions with longline gear in the Hawaii fleet. And, equally important, the longline industry is likely to support use of the chute, as it promises to save fishers money by reducing bait loss, and does not require significant alteration of normal fishing practices." Project partners include the National Audubon Society, Hawaii Longline Association; US National Marine Fisheries Service; Albi Save, an Australian-based company that manufactures the chute; and the captain and crew of the Katy Mary, a Hawaii longline fishing vessel. The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, and National Audubon Society's Living Oceans Program provided financial support. "Based on a preliminary review of the data, the chute promises to resolve seabird bycatch problems in the Hawaii tuna fishery, and if the Hawaii swordfish fishery (closed in 1999 due to concerns over sea turtle mortality) resolves their turtle bycatch problem and is allowed to resume, the chute will likely be effective at avoiding seabirds in this fishery as well." Continued Gilman. "Management authorities need to provide incentives for industry to continue commercial demonstrations of the chute to augment stakeholder ownership for its industry-wide use. Managers also need to conduct a directed experiment to test the effectiveness of currently required seabird deterrent measures, which were observed to be ineffective during the chute experiment." Gilman will work with Dr. Chris Boggs of the National Marine Fisheries Service, Nigel Brothers, an Australian biologist who collected data for the at-sea trial of the chute, and captain Jerry Ray and crew of the Katy Mary, to write a final report for the experiment. Founded in 1905 and supported by 600,000 members in more than 500 chapters throughout the Americas, the National Audubon Society conserves and restores natural ecosystems, focusing on birds and other wildlife, and their habitats, for the benefit of humanity and the Earth's biological diversity. # # # You are subscribed to Audubon-News. To unsubscribe, send email to audubon-news-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with 'unsubscribe' in the Subject field. To adjust other settings (vacation, digest, etc.) please visit, http://www.freelists.org/list/audubon-news.