Adjusting time-of-day and depth of fishing provides an economically viable solution to seabird bycatch in an albacore tuna longline fishery
Marine megafauna exposed to fisheries bycatch belong to some of the most threatened taxonomic groups and include apex and mesopredators that contribute to ecosystem regulation. Fisheries bycatch is a major threat to the conservation of albatrosses, large petrels and other pelagic seabirds. Using data sourced from a fisheries electronic monitoring system, we assessed the effects of the time-of-day and relative depth of fishing on seabird and target species catch rates for a Pacific Ocean pelagic longline fishery that targets albacore tuna with an apparently high albatross bycatch rate. Using a Bayesian inference workflow with a spatially-explicit generalized additive mixed model for albacore tuna and generalized linear mixed regression models both for combined albatrosses and combined seabirds, we found that time-of-day and fishing depth did not significantly affect the target species catch rate while night-time deep setting had > 99% lower albatross and total seabird catch rates compared to both deep and shallow partial day-time sets. This provides the first evidence that night-time setting in combination with fishing deep reduces seabird catch risk and may be commercially viable in this and similar albacore tuna longline fisheries. Findings support evidence-informed interventions to reduce the mortality of threatened seabird bycatch species in pelagic longline fisheries.