Seabirds: Threats to Seabirds


Seabirds Home Threats To Seabirds Domestic Seabird Bycatch Mitigation Efforts International Seabird Bycatch Mitigation Efforts Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) News Articles


Seabirds at Longline Vessel

Photo 61: Seabirds at Longline Vessel 
(NOAA Photo Library.)

Over the past 150 years, the interaction between humans and seabirds has become increasingly detrimental to seabird populations. Overhunting at the beginning of the 20th century decimated populations of many seabirds, including the short-tailed albatross whose numbers dropped from over one million to less than one hundred in a single thirty-year span. The introduction of invasive species such as feral cats has adversely affected seabird colonies that were previously isolated from natural predators. Land development destroyed the nesting grounds of many seabird species, affecting population size. Perhaps the greatest threat to seabirds is bycatch from commercial fishing operations. Bycatch occurs when seabirds, attracted by the offal discharge of fishing vessels, attempt to take bait from a longline or a net and become ensnared and drown as a result.

Commercial Longline Rack

Photo 62: Commercial Longline Rack. 
(NOAA Photo Library.)

It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of seabirds are killed this way every year, making the reduction of bycatch a major target of domestic and international efforts to maintain healthy seabird populations. A number of relatively inexpensive mitigation methods have been developed to address this issue. However, the effectiveness of such methods is typically dependent on implementation throughout the geographical area encompassing seabird migratory paths.

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