Seabird Bycatch During Gear Retreival in a Pelagic Longline Fishery
In the Hawaii (USA) shallow-set pelagic longline fishery (targeting swordfish), most seabird captures historically occurred during gear setting. Since 2001, however, when NMFS introduced seabird regulations, about 75% of seabird captures occur during the haul. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) sponsored a limited study of the factors that may influence the frequency of these incidental captures. Some of the factors identified included the number of albatrosses near the fishing vessels during gear hauling, and the length of the leaders. The branchline weight and the wind speed were also important. The study noted that research on potential alternative fishing operations that might reduce seabird bycatch during longline gear hauling should focus on reducing bird access to baited hooks as the crew coils the branch lines. Such possible alternatives include using shorter leaders, using heavier swivels, more efficient branchline coiling, and shielding the area where hooks become accessible to birds.