Safe handling and release guidelines for seabirds.

Debski I, Ayrton H (2019) Safe handling and release guidelines for seabirds. In: WCPFC Scientific Committee 15th Regular Session. WCPFC-SC15-2019/EB-WP-10, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia

Bycatch in pelagic longline fisheries is one of the greatest threats to seabirds, particularly
albatrosses and petrels. Species of particular conservation concern caught by WCPFC fisheries
include the Antipodean wandering albatross (Diomedea antipodensis antipodensis), black petrel
(Procellaria parkinsoni), flesh-footed shearwater (Ardenna carneipes) and Campbell Island
mollymawk (Thalassarche impavida).
Some seabirds caught on longline hooks, or in fishing nets, are retrieved alive at the vessel on
hauling. In some fishing operations a substantial proportion of birds may be alive. For example,
in the New Zealand domestic pelagic longline fishery 36% of observed seabird captures during
the 2016/17 fishing year were alive when hauled to the vessel (Abraham & Thompson 2015).
Handling and releasing live-caught seabirds in a way that maximises their chances of long-term
survival will, together with the implementation of effective seabird bycatch mitigation measures,
help reduce the impact of pelagic longline fisheries bycatch on these vulnerable seabirds.
During discussions on safe release guidelines at SC14 (Agenda Item 6.2.3), and in relation to the
Workshop on WCPFC Bycatch Mitigation Problem-Solving (reported to SC14 in SC14-EB-WP-
12), it was noted that guidelines for release of live-caught seabirds would be helpful to reduce
impact. This paper provides such guidelines.