- Issue: Fall 2014
“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.”