Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Critically Endangered Waved Albatross gets lifeline from new technology to reduce bycatch

New fishing technology will dramatically reduce seabird bycatch in Ecuador's hake fishing industry
April 2012.  American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and Ecuadorian Partner Equilibrio Azul have developed a new technology that will dramatically reduce seabird bycatch in the Ecuadorian hake fleet. The hake fishery and associated bycatch is one of the most significant threats to the Critically Endangered Waved Albatross.

Critically Endangered Waved Albatross
The new technology, called the Medina System, represents a major breakthrough in seabird bycatch mitigation in small-vessel bottom-set longline fisheries. Bycatch occurs when the fishing lines are being set behind the fishing boats or being pulled in and albatrosses and other seabirds grab the bait and become impaled on the barbed hooks, either in their bills, bodies, or wings. Dragged under the surface, the birds are unable to free themselves and drown. Others are still alive as the line is hauled, but often injured or maimed when they are set free. With demand for ocean fish at an all-time high, hundreds of thousands of albatrosses and other seabirds are killed in this way each year.
New technology
"This new technology is inexpensive, effective, and acceptable to the local, small-scale fishermen. It reduces interactions with seabirds during line setting by allowing the bait to sink rapidly, but doesn't add so much weight that the fishermen have trouble hauling the line back on board," said Dr. Jessica Hardesty Norris, ABC Seabird Program Director.
ABC partners Jodie and Roberto Medina of Equilibrio Azul have worked with the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment, international fisheries conservation expert Nigel Brothers in association with Humane Society International (Australia) and local Ecuadorian fishermen to develop the technology. Since 2008, the team has been joining fishermen as observers on their boats to document the number of Waved Albatrosses dying in this fishery.
This data is the first of its kind in the country. In 2010 and 2011, they ran experiments and conducted a series of workshops with fishermen to develop best practices to reduce albatross mortality in the fishery. This work consists of four strategies: 1) improving line setting methods to reduce the time the bait is near the surface; 2) improving the haul method by using a plastic pipe over the gunnel to protect the line and improve leverage; 3) improving offal discharge management to reduce the attraction of seabirds; and 4) educating and providing materials on safe release techniques.

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