Seabird Populations Drop - More Birds Fall Victim to Longlines
A group of 705 scientists from 83 countries and supported by 230 non-governmental organizations from 54 countries has petitioned the United Nations to implement a moratorium on all longline fishing in the Pacific Ocean to prevent the extinction of the leatherback sea turtle.
The number of seabirds also killed on these lines is staggering. Exact figures are not available because of lack of reporting, but a recent report on Alaska longlining gives an insight into the seriousness of the situation.
The newly released Alaska estimates of seabird mortality from longline fishing for 2003 shows that more than 5,000 seabirds were killed as incidental "takes" on longline hooks. This was an increase of 40% over 2002.
The 2003 figures included 179 Layson and 176 black-footed albatross. One of the reasons given for the jump in mortality is due to the 28% increase in the number of hooks set in the Bering Sea and Aleutian fisheries where 90% of the Aaskan longline seabird mortality takes place.
Longlines are set across the Pacific by both legal and illegal fishing operations. Fishermen are now intensifying their pressure on the government of Ecuador to legalize longline fishing in the Galapagos National Park.
Every year Sea Shepherd Conservation Society intercepts and confiscates hundreds of miles of illegal longlines. Numerous dead turtles, birds and other non-targeted victims are found on these hooks.
Also of growing concern is the number of seabirds killed by trawlers. The US government estimates that between 8,000 and 29,000 seabirds were killed in 2003, primarily in collisions with cables towing the trawls.
Sea Shepherd's flagship Farley Mowat will be on the Tail of the Grand Banks on Sunday, April 17th, to deploy experimental net rippers to discourage bottom trawling in this area where cod and other species have been dramatically diminished.