Bycatch in longline fisheries has been identified as a key driver in the decline of albatrosses since the late 1980s and 1990s. Of the 22 species of albatross in the world, 15 are threatened with extinction. Smaller petrel and shearwater species are also caught by longlines. In addition, the driftnets used in gillnet fisheries pose a threat to diving seabirds, as do purse seine fishing fleets. This threat is particularly acute in fisheries that operate south of 20 degrees latitude. 

There are a number of best practices and alternate fishing gear choices that can be used to address seabird mortality from longline fishing:

  • Weighting lines so that fishing hooks sink quickly, out of the diving range of seabirds
  • Setting fishing lines at night
  • Attaching streamer lines, also known as tori or bird-scaring lines, to prevent birds from diving where the hooks are deployed
  • Using hook-shielding devices that encase the point of baited hooks until they have reached a certain depth
  • Enacting time and area closures to reduce seabird interactions
  • Increasing observer coverage on fishing vessels to 100 percent, ideally comprised of a minimum of 20-percent human observer coverage, with the remainder covered by electronic monitoring. 

The Hookpod hook-shielding device has been shown to reduce seabird bycatch on longlines to near zero. The device encloses the point and barb of the hook while the line is set, so birds cannot become accidentally hooked and drowned. Once it gets to 20 meters below the surface, beyond the diving depth of most seabirds, the Hookpod opens and releases the hook and bait. The pods, which were developed in cooperation with the fishing industry, can be retrieved when the line is hauled in and reused for many years.

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