Positive net results for seabirds
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Albatross Task Force (ATF). Euan Dunn, Principal Policy Officer – Marine, reports on the work we’re doing for seabirds closer to home.
New proposal benefits seabirds
It’s a little-known fact that fishing gear inflicts heavy losses on seabirds in Europe, with at least 200,000 seabirds caught and drowned annually, from familiar species like guillemots and razorbills to the highly endangered Balearic shearwater.
Until recently this had been a blind spot for the European Commission. Now, however, this guidance has been given new legislative teeth.
Under the Commission’s new proposal, influenced by advocacy from the RSPB and BirdLife International, fishing boats will have to ensure that bycatches of seabirds are "minimised and where possible eliminated such that they do not represent a threat to the conservation status of these species".
Gill-nets most popular
Gill-nets are the most popular fishing gear around Europe’s shores, and overall they drown more seabirds.
We're trialling novel solutions, focused on making these nets more visible to birds. Research on what birds actually see underwater led us to build high visibility panels into the net. Tests in the Baltic Sea, where seaducks like scoters and long-tailed ducks are at high risk, are showing some promise, and they don't seem to reduce the fishermen’s catch.
Meanwhile, research in Peru suggests that illuminating gill-nets with LED lights may reduce bycatch of cormorants, so we’ll be exploring this option, too.
All around the coast of the UK, seabirds and other wonderful marine wildlife are in danger. But unlike on land, there are very few protected areas at sea.