Gillnets: A fatal attraction for seabirds
May 2013. A new study, published by BirdLife scientists and marine biologist Dr Ramunas Žydelis, reveals that a staggering 400,000 birds are killed each year in gillnet fisheries. This number exceeds the estimated toll of bird deaths documented in longline fisheries. This is the first time the massive scale of this problem has been laid bare - making it clear that urgent action is needed to tackle it.
The study, which is the first global estimate of seabird bycatch in gillnet fisheries, points out that the huge death toll should be viewed as a minimum estimate because of the gaps in data and other factors like ‘ghost fishing', where lost fishing gear continues to capture birds.
Dr. Žydelis stated: "Unlike longline and trawl fisheries, for which there are simple technical solutions available to reduce seabird bycatch, research into similar measures for gillnets has been very limited to date and further efforts are urgently required."
Gillnets are fixed gear used across the world, largely in coastal fisheries, to catch a variety of different fish. They are generally made from fine nylon, making them virtually invisible underwater. Not surprisingly, this poses a particular problem for diving seabirds, which readily become entangled and drown when pursuing their prey underwater.
Courtesy USFWS/J Drinkwin
As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.