In Namibia we are working to reduce seabird mortality in the longline and trawl fisheries. Together these two fisheries are responsible for the accidental mortality of around 30,000 seabirds per year, the majority of which are white-chinned petrels and yellow-nosed albatross. These alarming figures represent one of the most lethal fisheries in the world in terms of seabird bycatch. Despite this high level of mortality, there are currently no regulations in Namibia that make the use of seabird bycatch mitigation measures compulsory.
However, our work has shown that simple and easy to use solutions can reduce this mortality to negligible levels without affecting fish catch. The simple solutions include the use of bird scaring lines to prevent seabirds from accessing baited hooks, and steel line weighting to rapidly sink baited hooks away from the sea surface and out of reach of the foraging seabirds. When used together with night setting, this combination is extremely effective. Our results suggest seabird bycatch can be reduced by over 95% in the longline fishery. In the trawl fishery bird scaring lines alone are sufficient to practically eliminated seabird bycatch. In South Africa this has already been put into practice, with a fleet-wide reduction of 99% of albatross deaths since introduction of mitigation.
Below: a member of crew deploys a bird scaring line in the Namibian trawl fishery
The Albatross Task Force is working in partnership with Meme Itumbapo - a local group of disadvantaged women based in Walvis Bay, who did not have the chance to gain a formal education. Together we have set up a process to manufacture and supply locally built, high standard bird scaring lines for trawl and long-line vessels in Namibia. The project is funded by Namibia Port Authority (Namport) and is designed to set up a new source of employment for people who will really benefit from the additional income and use locally sourced materials, instead of flying in foreign alternatives.
In the first phase, we made sixteen (16) bird scaring lines for trawl vessels, which we presented to the Novanam Fishing Company, the first company to drive voluntary use of bird scaring lines in their fleet. In the second phase, we manufactured a further six (6) trawler bird scaring lines and twenty four (24) bird scaring lines for the longline fleet.
Below: Building bird scaring lines with Meme Itumbapo in Walvis Bay, Namibia
This work represents some of the first steps toward achieving the critical environmental objective of reducing seabird mortality in trawl and longline fisheries in Namibia. At the same time we are helping to develop an income generating opportunity for a local women's group. The next steps include meeting with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources to discuss how we can continue to support the implementation of mitigation measures in Namibia, and hopefully move a step closer to the adoption of mitigation in fishery regulations.
Through the ATF we have conducted the experimental work with industry and demonstrated how to deploy and retrieve bird scaring lines safely and efficiently. This work under commercial conditions on Namibian fishing vessels, as well as providing on shore workshops for industry has provided a solid basis of trust and information sharing which we are now using to drive wider implementation.
Namibia is one of the priority fisheries for the ATF, and we hope to see big changes in the near future.
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