[audubon-news] New Technology Could Minimize Seabird Deaths in Hawaii Longline Fishery

  • From: "BIANCHI, John" <JBIANCHI@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: undisclosed-recipients:;
  • Date: Mon, 28 Jul 2003 13:39:17 -0400

Contact: Eric Gilman


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 

"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.

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