Protecting Albatross from Fishing Lines

longline fishing
  • commercial fishermen

    A commercial fisherman retrieves a streamer line in the western Bering Sea. Streamer lines are an easy-to-use solution that benefits both nature and people. They reduce seabird bycatch by 90%, protecting the albatross and other birds while improving fishermen’s yields.

  • longline ship

    A Russian longline fishing vessel makes its way out to the Bering Sea fishing grounds, surrounded by birds eager for a chance at a free meal grabbed from the ship’s baited hooks.

  • young albatross

    A young short-tailed albatross glides behind a commercial fishing vessel in the Navarin Canyon area of the western Bering Sea, looking for a chance to swoop in for some food.

  • fulmars

    Seabird species including albatross and northern fulmars (pictured here) will float on the water’s surface, not daring to come near the orange streamer lines, which keep birds away until the baited hooks sink below seabirds' diving ranges.

  • lines dropped

    Two streamer lines extend from the stern of a Russian longline vessel. The waving orange and yellow plastic streamers help keep hungry sea birds off to the sides and away from the longlines.

“Every year, hundreds of thousands of seabirds are killed by longline fishing gear worldwide,” says WWF Senior Fisheries Officer Heather Brandon. She explains that these heavy-duty fishing lines dangle multiple baited hooks that, as they’re lowered into the ocean, attract and ensnare hungry seabirds, pulling them under to drown.

In Russia’s far eastern Kamchatka region, the endangered short-tailed albatross and other seabirds are falling victim to longlines, so to protect the birds, WWF introduced Russian fishermen to a colorful solution called streamer lines. These lines, often threaded with brightly colored orange tubing, flutter above the longlines, scaring birds away from the hooks and resulting in a 90% reduction in seabird bycatch.

To convince the fishermen to adopt streamers, we studied Russia’s largest longline operation and discovered they were losing almost $800,000 a year in lost bait and catch as a result of diving—and dying—birds. When they saw that the wiggling lines could protect their income and the albatross, they were eager to give them a try. WWF provided some initial supplies and training, and the practice took off.

“Today, half the Kamchatka-based longline vessels are using streamer lines,” says Brandon, “and WWF researchers have concurrently recorded a major increase in albatross numbers in the area.”

Explore More

World Wildlife magazine provides an inspiring, in-depth look at the connections between animals, people and our planet. Published quarterly by WWF, the magazine helps make you a part of our efforts to solve some of the most pressing issues facing the natural world.

View all issues