I recently headed down to Hout Bay, South Africa to join a demersal (bottom) longline fishing vessel in a fishery we have recently begun working with again to improve and update mitigation measures.

Upon arrival to the harbour I found that the boat that I was supposed to join had already left port and left me behind. This was not through any particular bad intentions, just an unfortunate miscommunication between the company and the vessel. A simple but critical difference between 12pm and 2pm! Fortunately when I got to the harbour I found that the sister ship was still in port and was due to leave in a few minutes. So I hopped on board and away we went!

The trip was a good one, despite the usual occasional wooziness due to the mix of rough seas and small boats. I was happy to see the elusive wandering albatross soaring around our vessel in search of discarded fish. There were also large numbers of great shearwaters surrounding our vessel for the duration of the trip – I don’t remember seeing this many ever in my life. During many of my other sea trips the great shearwaters have been a rarity, but it is just a sign of the stark seasonal changes in seabird abundances.

Below: A great shearwater. Oli Yates

These smaller birds are adept divers, and in many longline fisheries they are able to dive down and bring baited hooks back to the surface where albatrosses steal the bait and become hooked and drown. This is known as secondary hooking. Gladly on this trip there were no such instances and I was able to work with the crew to improve the bird-scaring lines to help maintain the birds away from the vessel. 

Below: The vessel crew prepare to haul the line at sea off South Africa. Bokamoso Lebepe