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SOS: Save Our Seabirds From Commercial Fishing Boats

SOS: Save Our Seabirds From Commercial Fishing Boats

Many conservationists have been talking about how commercial fishing practices have all but destroyed many of the most significant fish populations on the planet, like the snapper and giant bluefin tuna, however not as much attention has been drawn to the way outdated fishing techniques are negatively impacting other marine species, like sea birds.

According to a recently formed coalition of conservation organizations that includes Britain’s own Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, seabirds like the Albatross and and petrel are frequently becoming the innocent victims of a fishing practice known as long lining, or trawling.

Although they are slightly different in execution, both long lining and trawling involve dragging lines and/or nets behind fishing boats for long distances. Because these lines carry fish bait and bits of discarded fish flesh on the boat decks, they act as magnets for seabirds who treat them like their at-sea buffet.

Fishing boats that are deploying long lines of baited hooks can often spell the end for these seabirds, which swoop down to obtain the tasty morsel, only to become ensnared on the hook and plunged under the water where they soon drown.

According to the RSPB, fisheries, including those using long-lining and trawling, are believed to kill 100,000 albatrosses annually. Eighteen of the world’s 22 species of albatross are facing extinction, and bycatch in fisheries is the most significant threat to the family worldwide.

It’s important to point out that these birds aren’t being intentionally killed, although their dwindling numbers are the result of a reluctantance on the part of fisheries to make changes to keep the birds from swarming to the bait.

In a recent appearance on the public radio program, Living on Earth, Grahame Madge of the RSPB pointed to an inexpensive boat modification that could help save the birds without affecting the fishing process.

“What we want the tuna fisheries to do is to adopt more mitigation measures. So, for example, if fishing vessels can pay out streamer lines from the back of their vessels that will enable them to build effectively two curtains down either side of the long line, which deters albatrosses and other seabirds from getting too close to that killing zone right at the back of the boat,” said Madge.

These streamer lines would operate much like a scarecrow in a cornfield, creating a fluttering distraction that would prevent albatrosses and other birds from getting too close to the bait lines.

Although many seabirds are affected by commercial fishing practices, the albatross has emerged as the poster child for the RSPB and its coalition of supporters. In his interview with LOE, Madge goes on to explain why:

“There’s something about an albatross that touches you, even if you’ve not seen one and it’s that that we’ve been tapping into really, this public consciousness toward albatrosses. And when you think that albatrosses can live until they’re 60, be [breeding] until the age of 50, but lay one egg every two years, when you start losing birds from that population, then that’s really bad news for the individual, but also for the species, itself. The Wandering albatross certainly has the largest wingspan of any bird and it’s a bird that is supremely adapted to its environment. When you see these magnificent creatures in their environment, it makes you realize what a wonderful force evolution is and how terrible it would be if these birds weren’t sail the winds any longer.”

Check out the Save the Albatross campaign being sponsored by RSPB and Birdlife International to learn more about this issue, and commit to sustainable seafood choices whenever you can.

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3:29AM PDT on Apr 9, 2010

I think that the idea for paying out the streamer lines is a good one :) I didn't realise that these fishing boats were harmful to both fish and birds, but it makes a lot of sense when their methods of fishing are outlined. Of course, I would love to see the day when there is no fishing (as I'm vegetarian), but until then, I think that they should at least modify their methods so that more beautiful creatures are not thoughtlessly (albeit unintentionally) killed.

7:31AM PST on Jan 7, 2010


2:42PM PST on Jan 3, 2010

The seabirds definately need to be taken into consideration before it´s too late and they´re all gone!

1:22AM PST on Dec 4, 2009

Thank you!!!

8:47AM PST on Nov 25, 2009


2:42PM PST on Nov 22, 2009

save the used postage stamps from your mail and send them to the R.S.P.B. - this helps to fund their campaign to save albatrosses :)


6:33PM PST on Nov 21, 2009

I loathe the commercial fishing industry. People are just too disconnected with nature to appreciate what we have, and just want to be able to gorge their faces with whatever money can buy them... people are just plane ignorant.

1:08PM PST on Nov 20, 2009

is there some kind of petition or letter writing campaign to take action online?

11:05PM PST on Nov 19, 2009

thank u Beth

7:30PM PST on Nov 18, 2009

each one have rigth to live in peace, only lift change the attitude... al we can be better`s.

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