Did you know that seabirds are one of the most threatened groups of birds in the world? Human activities are causing habitat destruction and pollution in the seas and oceans, putting marine biodiversity under enormous pressure.
One of the biggest threats that seabirds are facing is being incidentally killed as ‘bycatch’ in fisheries. In Europe, it is estimated that more than 200,000 seabirds are accidentally caught and killed by commercial fisheries every year. Threatened seaducks are caught in gillnets and shearwaters in longlines, driving these species ever closer to extinction.
The BirdLife Partnership’s Seabird Task Force are working together with fishermen to tackle bycatch and are developing measures to prevent seabird deaths. Simple and inexpensive solutions already exist, such as using bird-scaring lines to keep birds away from cables and hooks, setting lines at night when birds are not active, and using weighted lines to sink bait and hook quickly away from birds. Other measures are still in the experimental stage and are the subject of trials. Seabird bycatch may be a complex problem, but there are lots of examples from around the world that show that it is not an insurmountable issue.
In the coming months, BirdLife Cyprus will be involved in setting up a ‘Bycatch Task Force’ for Cyprus. Little is known about the scale and the scope of the bycatch problem in Cyprus, especially for seabirds, although incidental capture in fishing gear is an important pressure to threatened species such as sea turtles and the Mediterranean Monk Seal. With the expert coordination of BirdLife Europe and together with other NGOs in Cyprus, we will be developing protocols for recording bycatch to understand which species are affected, with which gear and where problems occur, and we will be developing and testing a toolbox of solutions.