The European Seabird Task Force is BirdLife’s new team of seabird bycatch experts. We are working with fishermen across Europe to tackle seabird bycatch.
The establishment of the Seabird Task Force means that BirdLife International and our Partners can actively contribute to the understanding of seabird bycatch within Europe and begin to develop and adapt solutions to this problem with fishermen across the region. The Seabird Task Force is the European incarnation of the successful ‘Albatross Task Force’, a team which has been working collaboratively with fishermen to tackle seabird bycatch in southern Africa and South America. Around the world, our approach is simple and all about collaboration- we work with local fishermen to understand the seabird bycatch problem and develop solutions together. This approach builds mutual respect between the team and the fishermen, and allows an effective collaboration to take place to solve a shared environmental and economic problem.As the coordinator of the Seabird Task Force, I am working with a diverse team of seabird, bycatch and policy experts and our on-board observers/instructors (see our team) to tackle this problem. Over the next two years, we will be working in both Spain (Mediterranean) and Lithuania (Baltic Sea). In each country we are working with small, artisanal fishing boats, however we are focused on two different fishing gears-demersal longlines and and bottom set gillnets.
Within the Spanish Mediterranean, we have prioritised working with fishermen using demersal longlines. Many of these small fishing vessels work in the same area as the main Spanish feeding grounds of the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater, and we know that this species is just one which has been caught unintentionally by fishermen. Cost effective and efficient solutions exist for this type of fishery, and once we understand the problem in greater detail, our team will be working with fishermen to understand what methods could work best on-board their vessels.
In Lithuania, small artisanal fishermen use gillnets to catch cod, at the same time that hundreds of thousands of migrating sea ducks visit the Baltic Sea. As they dive and forage underwater many sea duck species are particularly susceptible to being caught in these nets. An estimated 76,000 seabirds are believed to be caught by this type of fishing gear in the Baltic each year. In comparison to longlines, we do not have proven methods to stop seabird bycatch in gillnets, therefore our team- together with local fishermen- will be at the forefront of trialling innovative solutions to see if we can reduce the number of birds caught in nets.
I hope that you will follow our project with interest. If you would like to subscribe to these updates, please register below. Our blogs are available in English, Spanish and Lithuanian. Please do contact us if you would like further information on the project.