The Lithuanian Ornithological Society together with Birdlife international is involved in actions to reduce seabird bycatch in gillnet fisheries. Our field work this autumn and winter has focused on working together with local fishermen to trial some new types of fishing nets. Instead of using normal fishing nets we are trying modified gillnets for cod fisheries. The nets are modified by changing the upper part of the net to be more visible by using nylon.Diving birds should have better visualization while diving to see these nets.
The aim of the study is not to ban the coastal gillnet fishery but to reduce bird bycatch without altering the fishery significantly.
In Lithuania, the project team – three bird observers/specialists – have honed their skills to learn about fish species. The reason for this is that our team join the local cod fishermen on board their boats on trips to the open sea to collect data on fish catch and bird bycatch. Our team is counting the different fish species caught in our modified fishing nets and from regular nets, measuring and weighing the fish catch. The aim is to look if there is a difference in fish catch depending on net type.
In autumn, there is an intensive fishery for cod along the Lithuanian coast, and many coastal fishermen are targeting this species, so lots of our survey work was done during autumn. The winter period is more difficult as the fishermen are changing their fish target from cod to smelt. The weather conditions in winter also became problematic. When temperature falls below -10 C (14F) the Baltic Sea begins freezing over, and nets become covered by sea ice.
In our next blog post we will provide additional detail on our field season, preliminary findings and next steps.