Gillnet fisheries are not uniform in nature across the globe – different species are targeted via different mesh sizes, fishing techniques and positioning of the net in the water column.
Gillnet bycatch is also not a problem restricted to a single country or even sea basin – there are recorded instances all over the world. What we hope, however, is that a suite of mitigation measures can be devised to reduce bird bycatch wherever gillnet fishing occurs. The work of the Seabird Task Force in Lithuania is our first step on this path.
Some of the only research done to date on seabird bycatch mitigation in gillnet fisheries was done in the Puget Sound, USA, by Ed Melvin, a well-respected seabird bycatch specialist based at Washington State University. His work, back in the 1990s, resulted in the development and adoption of modified bycatch-reducing nets in the sockeye salmon fishery that operates in the Sound.
In September 2014, Rory Crawford, Senior Policy Officer with the BirdLife International Marine Programme, and Rex Harrison, a salmon gillnet fisherman from Filey Bay in the UK, went to the Puget Sound on a ‘GAP2 Exchange’ to meet with sockeye fishermen, the management authorities, and Ed Melvin himself – all with a view to understanding more about what knowledge we might be able to take back and apply to other fisheries.
This video, produced by GAP2, neatly summarises Rory and Rex’s trip, and highlights BirdLife’s approach to finding solutions to bird bycatch – one of collaboration and mutual understanding with fishermen.
Many thanks to GAP2 for funding Rory and Rex’s exchange trip, and for promoting collaboration between fishermen, scientists, NGOs and policy makers.