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Saving Seabirds: An Award-Winning Partnership

View slideshow The Presidential Migratory Bird Federal Stewardship Award annually recognizes a single project or action conducted by or in partnership with a Federal agency focusing on migratory bird conservation. saving_seabirds04.jpg saving_seabirds01.jpg saving_seabirds02.jpg saving_seabirds03.jpg

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NOAA Fisheries National Seabird Program

Bycatch Explained

Preventing seabird mortality in the U.S. West Coast Groundfish longline fishery

It’s no surprise that seabirds eat fish. That’s why they often visit fishing vessels looking for feeding opportunities. But that doesn’t always turn out well for the birds.

Seabirds sometimes inadvertently get hooked or entangled in fishing gear. They are pulled under water where they drown. It’s a problem known as bycatch. It’s concerning, but even more so if the seabird happens to be an endangered short-tailed albatross.

This is why NOAA Fisheries teamed up with Washington Sea Grant, Oregon State University and other partners to find a way to keep albatross and other seabird species off the hooks of commercial fishing vessels in the U.S. West Coast Groundfish longline fishery.

The solution they came up with recently won the 2015 Presidential Migratory Bird Federal Stewardship Award announced at the annual meeting of the Council for the Conservation of Migratory Birds on May 7, 2015.

A Low-Tech Solution to Seabird Bycatch

The project involves a relatively simple and low-cost solution known as streamer lines. Streamer lines consist of a long piece of rope with strands of orange tubing suspended every 5 meters that hang down to the water’s surface. Fishermen deploy the streamer lines from the stern of longline fishing vessels along with the line of baited hooks. Because the streamer lines are attached to a high point on the back deck of the vessel, they extend back to cover and protect the area where the baited hooks are sinking, preventing the seabirds from get hooked or entangled.

“It is the dedication as well as the extensive network and collaboration with partners that makes efforts like this possible,” said Eileen Sobeck, the Assistant Administrator of NOAA Fisheries. “This project is a great example of working collaboratively to achieve success as we carry out our fishery management objectives, in this case to reduce bycatch and conserve seabird species in the marine ecosystems.”

Power of Partnerships

An extensive outreach component was also part of the project. It involved informational port workshops and working directly with fishermen on their vessels to deploy streamer lines most effectively. A similar approach implemented in the groundfish longline fisheries off Alaska successfully reduced bycatch of albatrosses in those fisheries by almost 90 percent.

Partners who were critical to the success of this project include: Argos, Inc.; California Department of Fish and Wildlife; California Sea Grant Extension; David & Lucille Packard Foundation; Englund Marine and Industrial Supply; Fishing Vessels Owner’s Association; F/V Alrita; F/V Blackhawk; F/V Bella Bleu; F/V Celtic Aire; F/V Grizzly; F/V High Hopes; F/V Pacific Hustler; F/V Pacific Surveyor; F/V Patriot; F/V Top Gun; LFS Marine and Outdoor; Makah Tribe; Marine Service and Supply Inc.; National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; Oregon Sea Grant; Oregon State University; Pacific Fishery Management Council; Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission; Port Orford Ocean Resource Team; Quileute Tribe; Quinault Tribe; Tommy’s Marine Supply; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Regions 1 and 7; Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; and Washington Sea Grant.