A bird ate my rod

Shag - Albert Stoecker (5)_450_850_crp

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Although not an excuse for missing school, this is the reality for schools of marine mammals (e.g. dolphins), turtles and seabirds when they are tangled or even drowned in abandoned, lost, discarded or active fishing gear.

For seabirds in particular, the effects of fishing can be manifold:

  1. Overexploitation by fisheries can decrease the availability of prey for seabirds, which can result in lower survival and reproduction success in some seabird species,
  2. Fisheries discards provide a new food resource for seabirds otherwise unavailable, which is very abundant and predictable in space and time, creating a strong dependency and ultimately the increase of some populations and species potentially leading to ecosystem imbalances, and;
  3. Seabirds are caught in some fishing gears and may drown while trying to snatch the bait off longlines, when being entangled or collide with towed gears and hauling (trawls), or when they are entangled when diving in floating or set-nets. 

Although these three effects are independent and have uneven impacts on seabirds, they are interrelated and interact in complex and unexpected ways ultimately threatening the populations of seabirds and other marine life. Entanglement in fishing gears can result in live or dead captures and often the fate of released birds is not known. Although interaction with fishing gears may not always result in injury or mortality, seabird interaction with fishing gears indicates their susceptibility to the gear.

As we enter the second year of our Cyprus Bycatch Project, which aims to study the effects of fishing gear on vulnerable species including turtles, marine mammals and seabirds,  fishermen are accommodating and have already welcomed on their boats our onboard observers for the second year of data collection. Surveys were conducted on small coastal fisheries and longline fisheries in the harbours of Pafos, Latchi, Larnaca, Limassol and Ayia Napa.

Following the onboard surveys of 2018, this year we will be focusing on strengthening our collaboration with the Cyprus fishing community and further investigate the best practices for mitigating bycatch in fisheries across Cyprus. In addition, while the effects of bycatch are not prominent in seabirds, we will nevertheless continue raising awareness so that fishermen help us in collecting data on seabird ID and counts, foraging areas and even possible incidents of accidental entanglement with fishing gear.

Recently, BirdLife Cyprus was contacted on the event of a great crested grebe carrying a piece of lost fishing rod at the fishing port of Larnaca. Though our organization isn’t directly involved in tackling such events (both involving the entanglement of seabirds and other marine animals), our close collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research and the Ministry of Game and Fauna, provides us with the flexibility to act swiftly. We hereby provide a list of numbers for calling in events on stranding, entanglement or other events related to the injury or drowning of birds/seabirds and other marine life.

Turtle entanglement/stranding/death: Turtle hotline (University of Cyprus): 96952929

Marine animal stranding (sharks or dolphins): report to the on-call officer at the respective port:

  • Larnaca /Famagusta – 99489645
  • Limassol/ Zygi – 99486130
  • Pafos – 99489642

Seabird entanglement/injury/death: please contact the Game and Fauna Service wardens at the numbers below:

  • Limassol – 99445728
  • Larnaca/Famagusta – 99634325, 99522700, 99542774, 99614629
  • Pafos – 99445679, 99445291


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