The Problem

Seabird bycatch – the accidental killing of birds as they are caught during fishing- occurs in many different fisheries and many different types of fishing gear. In Europe, our current information has revealed that longlines and gillnets appear to be the most problematic gears for seabird bycatch- with high numbers of seabirds accidentally killed in both gears across the region.

In longline fisheries, birds are caught because they are attracted to the baited hooks being thrown overboard – they become hooked and are dragged underwater. The Seabird Task Force is working with the Spanish Mediterranean artisanal fleet which fishes using demersal longlines– a gear which catches fish at the bottom of the sea floor. Simple and effective solutions exist to reduce seabird bycatch in this type of fishery. Read about our work with demersal longlines in Spain.

Gillnets are a static curtain of nets, designed to entangle fish by their gills. They are typically made of fine nylon, making them virtually invisible underwater. These nets, which either hang vertically in the water column or drift at the surface entangle and drown seabirds, particularly species that dive underwater for food. The Seabird Task Force is focused on set gillnets, which are set near the bottom of the sea floor. We have not yet determined the most effective mitigation measures for this fishing gear, and so the Seabird Task Force is working on innovative solutions to this problem. Read more about our work with set gillnets in Lithuania.

Not only are the environmental concerns extremely serious, but seabird bycatch also has an economic aspect. If a seabird is caught in a net or on a longline hook, it is a missed opportunity to catch fish. For this reason, BirdLife’s collaborative approach is able to effectively tackle seabird bycatch, as it is a shared problem between our Seabird Task Force and fishermen. Read more about seabird bycatch here.