The economic cost of seabird bycatch in Argentinean longline fisheries
Seabird mortality in longline fisheries is believed to be an important cause of the reductions in many seabird populations worldwide, and results in reduced fishing efficiency and economic losses for fishing companies. We estimated the economic cost of not using seabird bycatch deterrents in Argentinean longline fisheries, with the intention of encouraging adoption of mitigation measures in those fisheries. We conducted the study in the Argentine ling Genypterus blacodes and Patagonian tooth fish Dissostichus eleginoides fisheries from 2001 to 2006 on three fishing vessels. Data on the incidence of seabird bycatch were collected by seabird observers specially trained in seabird identification and data on the catch rates of target species, cost of bait and fish were provided by the fishing company, supervised by Federal Inspectors from the Provincial Fisheries Agency. To estimate the bait loss, we set lines both with and without the use of deterrents streamer lines, night setting and strategic discharge of offal) in both fisheries. Seabird bycatch varies temporally and geographically, so to estimate economic losses using deterrents in each fishery, we used different bycatch rates/1000 hooks registered for different periods and fishing areas. Bycatch rates in the absence of deterrents were two birds/1000 hooks and 1.53 birds/1000 hooks for the Patagonian tooth fish and ling fisheries, respectively. These rates equate to the loss of more than 1.5 and 2 million dollars over a 10 year period for each fishery. When estimations are made with lower mortality rates, economic losses declined abruptly and were in the order of hundreds of dollars/fishing trip, for the same period of time. Results show that using deterrents, long term profits for the fishing company increase at a considerably high rate (the decrease in monetary loss is an order of magnitude), and the mortality of seabirds decreases by the same proportion (CPUE of seabirds decreases from tens of thousands to a few hundred). In these fisheries, the use of mitigation measures that reduce bait loss and seabird mortality represents a win-win situation with benefits to conservation and fishing companies.