Since 2013 Birdlife partners in Ecuador, Peru and Chile have been monitoring small-scale gillnet fleets for evidence of interactions (termed “bycatch”) with pink-footed shearwaters and other seabird species. In Peru there are tens of thousands of small-scale fishermen operating from over 10,000 vessels along the coast. The most common fishing gear they use is gillnets, often set drifting overnight at the ocean surface. The bycatch of any one vessel may be few and the work of monitoring can continue year upon year - observing, counting, and estimating the number of animals caught - to better understand the true impacts on these seabird populations.

The pink-footed shearwater is a vulnerable species that nests exclusively on a few small islands off the coast of Chile and migrates northward annually to foraging grounds off the north Pacific coasts of the United States and Canada. In the course of that migration these birds cross many fishing grounds that put them at risk of being caught and dying, including the massive gillnet fleet operating in Peru.

Below: A Pink-footed shearwater, one of four found entangled and drowned in gillnets off the coast of Peru. Image courtesy of Pro Delphinus


In June of 2014 one of our onboard observers accompanied a gillnet vessel out of the port of Chorillos, in the capital of Lima. Over the course of two fishing trips, each about 100 km offshore, four pink-footed shearwaters became entangled and drowned in the nets. These same trips also had bycatch including white-chinned petrels, sooty shearwaters, and a Markham’ s and ringed storm petrel. This was the first direct evidence of bycatch of pink-footed shearwaters by this study in Peru. We will continue our work monitoring this fishery, hoping no more birds get entangled or drown, but also looking for the long-term solutions for when they do. 

Below: A map indicates the positions of observed net deployments and seabird bycatch. Image courtesy of Pro Delphinus