Seabird bycatch mitigation and blue-dyed bait: A spectral and experimental assessment
The application of blue-dye to fishing baits is a seabird bycatch mitigation technique used in some pelagic longline fisheries that is thought to make the baits less visible and hence less attractive to seabirds. We tested this assumption in two ways. First, by measuring the spectral profiles of blue-dyed baits (fish and squid) and modelling the spectral profiles of the ocean under set conditions, we assessed how well wedge-tailed shearwaters (Puffinus pacificus) can distinguish dyed baits based on the known visual characteristics of this species. Results showed that no baits were perfectly cryptic against the background ocean, and only blue-dyed squid were relatively cryptic both in terms of chromatic and achromatic contrasts. Second, during at-sea trials blue-dyed and non-dyed baits that were simultaneously presented submerged on a longline or as surface presentations. During 26 longline sets which presented squid only, a 68% reduction in interactions with blue-dyed squid was observed compared to non-dyed squid. During surface presentations only 3–8% of blue-dyed squid baits were struck over the duration of the study compared with 75–98% of non-dyed squid bait. When using fish baits, however, approximately 48% of all blue-dyed baits presented in the first two days of trials received strikes from seabirds but this increased to 90% over the last three days. These results suggest the use of blue-dyed squid bait could decrease seabird bycatch in pelagic longline fisheries whereas blue-dyed fish baits are less likely to have a mitigatory effect.