Winter is approaching, and lots of sea ducks that have bred further north will gather in the Lithuanian Baltic Sea. Before the colder period sets in, many Baltic Sea gillnet fishermen are focussed on catching plaice – when colder weather arrives, fishermen will switch to catching cod as they come closer to shore, and it is in this fishery that wintering birds are at risk of bycatch.
This is the critical time for our project, when months of preparation will come to fruition. Our collaborating fishermen are lined up, we have checked and tested our data collection protocols with them, and our observer team are ready to work with them to test net panels, which we hope will reduce seabird bycatch in gillnets.
The last steps are the production of our modified gillnets with net panels attached and the finalisation of special permissions from the Fisheries Service to conduct our trials. The materials are now ready, and we hope the net maker we are working with will have all 5,600m of these modified nets completed by the end of next week. The nest will be with modification of warning panels 60cm x60xm.
Similarly, the special permissions should be secured in the next fortnight. So, by mid-October, not long before most of the wintering seaducks have arrived, our fisherman will have the chance to test them in real life – some of the first fishermen in the world to work in this sort of trial!
This winter, 10 different fishermen will test our modified nets. Three of them will test nets in the open sea on big boats departing from Klaipeda port, and the remaining 7 will be departing from different areas of the coast with smaller vessels. In addition, the Fisheries Service is offering to help obtain further bird bycatch data from fisherman not directly involved in our project. This will be supported by our recent engagement with gillnet fishermen at the Costal Fisheries Association annual meeting, where we were able to highlight the bird bycatch issue and encourage fishermen to provide us with records of bycaught birds. Although these ad-hoc reports from fishermen will not form the core basis of our data collection, they will help us build an overall picture of seaduck bycatch in Lithuania.