Global seabird bycatch in longline fisheries
Bycatch in longline fisheries is believed to govern the adverse conservation status of many seabird species, but no comprehensive global assessment has been undertaken. We reviewed the extent of seabird bycatch in all longline fisheries for which data are available. Despite the many inadequacies and assumptions contained therein, we estimated that at least 160000 (and potentially in excess of 320000) seabirds are killed annually. Most frequently caught are albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, with current levels of mortality liable to be unsustainable for some species and populations. Where realistic comparisons can be made, with data from the 1990s, there is evidence of substantially reduced bycatch in some key fisheries. Reductions stem from decreased fishing effort (especially in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the Southern Ocean), and greater and more effective use of technical mitigation measures, notably in demersal fisheries. However, bycatch problems in other fisheries have also emerged. Current concerns include those with previously unidentified bycatch problems (e.g. Spanish Gran Sol demersal fleet) and those where bycatch was identified, but where persistent data gaps prevented adequate assessments of the scale of the impact (e.g. Nordic demersal fisheries). Future assessments will only achieve greater precision when minimum standards of data collection, reporting and analysis are implemented by longline fishing fleets and the relevant regional fishery management organisations. Those fisheries in which bycatch has been substantially reduced demonstrate that the problem of seabird bycatch could be reduced to negligible proportions by enforced implementation of appropriate best-practice mitigation devices and techniques.