How to save a seabird

ScienceDaily | 2/21/2019 | Staff
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In a new study published Jan. 28 in the journal Conservation Biology, Melvin, Dietrich and partners from Oregon State University and the Alaska Fisheries Science Center show that in the time since they were adopted, streamer lines have had an extraordinary impact: seabird bycatch in Alaska's longline fisheries has been reduced by 77 to 90 percent, saving thousands of birds per year including hundreds of albatrosses.

Melvin said much of this success is thanks to the fishing industry's active involvement when the team was researching methods to avoid seabird bycatch two decades ago.

Industry - Credit - Research - Streamer - Lines

"It's really to the industry's credit that they were fully engaged in the research and started implementing streamer lines two to three years before they became mandatory," Melvin said. "The fishermen owned the solution from start to finish."

The solution also involved training fisheries observers to properly identify seabirds in order to record vessel bycatch. "The data they were able to collect over decades allowed us to monitor and estimate bycatch rates and track the success of this effort," said co-author Shannon Fitzgerald, a fisheries scientist at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

Researchers - Results - Years - Worth - Fisheries

The researchers arrived at their results by analyzing 23 years' worth of this meticulously collected fisheries observer data. While they found that bycatch rates remain much lower than the pre-streamer line days, more recently the number of birds hooked has been increasing.

"We have seen a continued increase in seabird bycatch, especially albatross, in Alaskan longline fisheries, with one of the recent years after our study the highest since 2002," said co-author Rob Suryan, a wildlife specialist at Oregon State University and research ecologist with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

Trend - Researchers - Bycatch - Fishery - Type

In parsing out this trend, the researchers realized that bycatch significantly varied by both fishery and type of bird. The three species of highest conservation concern -- the albatrosses -- were...
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