Satellite data suggests protection measures are being ignored as huge fishing lines snare endangered seabirds
Thu 31 Jan 2019 11.21 GMT
Industrial fishing vessels that accidentally kill tens of thousands of albatrosses each year routinely ignore regulations designed to save the birds from extinction, according to research.
Using satellite data, investigators found that vessels employing longline fishing techniques showed a “low level of compliance” with measures to reduce albatross deaths.
Longliners target tuna and other species, but their fishing lines – which can be up to 80 miles long – also unintentionally trap, drown and harm seabirds, as well as turtles, dolphins and other marine life, a process known as “bycatch”.
Modern fishing methods have been identified as a major danger to plummeting albatross populations, threatening to drive almost three-quarters of all species to extinction, said Birdlife International, who undertook the research in conjunction with Global Fishing Watch.
Under a red list compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 15 out of 22 albatross species are considered endangered.
The study, which drew on satellite data to map the behaviour of longliners in the Indian, Atlantic and western central Pacific ocean, revealed that just 15% of the vessels used a measure known as “night-setting”, which involves putting lines down at night. The technique is one of three mitigation measures designed to protect albatrosses, which only feed during the day.
The findings offered a stark contrast with reports given by countries to fisheries watchdogs that suggested night-setting was used by between 29% and 85% of fleets.
“The results are very disappointing,” said Stephanie Winnard, a biologist with the albatross task force, a specialist unit set up by Birdlife International and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. “By this stage you would expect a lot more vessels to be using night setting.”