$200 bird scaring line for trawlers can cut albatross deaths by over 90 percent

May 06, 2014
This is a sub-adult black-browed albatross with discarded hake head, scavenged from a trawler. Credit: Ross Wanless

The sight of seabirds following trawlers in order to feast from discarded fish is a common maritime sight, but each year many thousands of seabirds are killed by overhanging cables or in nets. New research in Animal Conservation assesses mortality figures from South Africa to show that a simple bird scaring line can reduce the mortality rate by over 90%.

The research compiled data from five years of observations to compare current and historic mortality rates. Previous research shows that in 2006 approximately 18,000 were killed each year by the South African hake trawl fishery, of which 14,000 were albatrosses.

By reviewing five years of data the team could assess the impact of bird scaring lines, streamers costing $200 that hang from a line attached to the stern of a fishing vessel. The results show that bird scaring lines alone resulted in 73 to 95% lower mortality in the winter, including a 95% reduction in albatross deaths.

A hake trawler with thousands of birds in attendance is shown. The orange buoy and bird scaring lines are visible off the stern of the vessel. Credit: Ross Wanless

Albatrosses are the most threatened group of birds on earth, with fishery-related deaths being the biggest threat to this group. Due to the many months they spend at sea, albatrosses produce few off-spring, meaning that these deaths have a disproportionately damaging impact on the global population.

Explore further: Seabirds' personalities determine feeding styles

More information: Maree, B, Wanless, R, Town, P, Fairweather, T, Sullivan, B, Yates, O, 'Significant reductions in mortality of threatened seabirds in a South African trawl fishery', Animal Conservation, DOI: 10.1111/acv.12126

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New models may reduce seabird bycatch

Apr 04, 2011

Tens of thousands of albatrosses and other far-ranging seabirds are killed each year after they become caught in longline fishing gear. Innovative new models developed by a Duke University-led research team may help reduce ...

Study uncovers albatross fishing grounds

Mar 01, 2013

(Phys.org) —A new model can predict the location of the most important fishing grounds for the black-browed albatross, helping conservationists to protect this endangered species.

Recommended for you

Speckled beetle key to saving crops in Ethiopia

Aug 22, 2014

(Phys.org) —An invasive weed poses a serious and frightening threat to farming families in Ethiopia, but scientists from a Virginia Tech-led program have unleashed a new weapon in the fight against hunger: ...

New tool to assess noise impact on marine mammals

Aug 22, 2014

A new desktop tool which will allow offshore renewable energy developers to assess the likely impacts of their projects on marine mammal populations has been developed by scientists at the University of St ...

Of bees, mites, and viruses

Aug 21, 2014

Honeybee colonies are dying at alarming rates worldwide. A variety of factors have been proposed to explain their decline, but the exact cause—and how bees can be saved—remains unclear. An article published on August ...

User comments : 0