Contact: Eric Gilman 808-988-1976 ericgilman@xxxxxxxxxxxxx NEW TECHNOLOGY MINIMIZES SEABIRD DEATHS IN HAWAII LONGLINE FISHERY Cooperative Research Finds Most Promising Ways to Minimize Seabird Bycatch Honolulu, Hawaii, July 28, 2003 - Today a team comprised of representatives from the Hawaii Longline Association, National Audubon Society, U.S. Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, and an Australian consultant, released the preliminary results of a unique cooperative research project. Their findings: using a new technology, longline-fishing vessels can catch tuna and swordfish with minimal risk of accidentally killing seabirds. Mortality in longline fisheries is the most critical global threat to certain seabirds, which get caught on baited hooks and drown. Hundreds of thousands of birds, including tens of thousands of albatross, are caught annually in longline fisheries worldwide. Longline mortality is the most significant component in the declines of several albatross species. The team's research was conducted on three seabird deterrent methods in Hawaii longline fisheries. The team assessed each method's effectiveness at avoiding seabird interactions, practicability, effect on fishing efficiency, cost to employ, and enforceability. A commercial demonstration was made to prove the viability of each deterrent. During the trials, one method emerged as the most promising: "side setting". Baited hooks are set close to the side of the vessel hull where seabirds are unable or unwilling to attempt to pursue the hooks. By the time bait reaches the stern, it has sunk to a depth where seabirds cannot locate it, nor can they dive deep enough to reach it. This method had the lowest mean seabird contact and capture rates of the seabird deterrent treatments tested when used with both Hawaii longline tuna and swordfish gear. Side setting, as opposed to traditional stern setting, provides a large operational benefit for certain types of vessels, and was practicable and convenient for use by crew. In other tests, the underwater setting chute, a promising device designed to release baited hooks underwater, out of sight and reach of diving seabirds, was relatively effective at reducing bird interactions but performed inconsistently and was inconvenient due to design problems: improvements are needed. A third deterrent -- thawing and dying bait dark blue to attempt to reduce seabirds' ability to see it - was less effective at avoiding bird interactions: it was also found to be relatively impractical and does not facilitate effective enforcement. "Fixing the global longline seabird mortality problem means not only identifying the deterrents that nearly eliminate bird deaths, but also making them practical and convenient, providing fishing crews with an incentive to employ them consistently and effectively." said Eric Gilman, National Audubon Society's pacific representative. "Results from this trial significantly contribute towards this end." "To successfully abate the problem of albatross mortality in global longline fisheries, there is a need to mainstream seabird deterrent best practices for longline fisheries. Side setting combined with adequate line weighting holds much promise to significantly reduce seabird mortality in both pelagic and demersal longline fisheries worldwide," said Nigel Brothers, a consultant on the project team. "The next step towards mainstreaming best practices is to promote broad industry trials in Hawaii and abroad. Instituting a formal incentives program will help encourage the fleet to change longstanding practices and try side setting," said Jim Cook, of the Hawaii Longline Association. According to Sean Martin, President of the Hawaii Longline Association, "broad trials must precede widespread advocacy for longline fleets to side set to confirm several expectations of the mitigation method's effectiveness and suitability for fleet-wide use." The project team will finalize a Project Report by mid-August. Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences. Audubon is Partner of BirdLife International and contributes to the Save the Albatross Campaign. # # # 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.