Today, for the first time, the EU Fisheries Council discussed the EU Action Plan for reducing incidental catches of seabirds in EU fishing gears, which was proposed by the Commission in November 2012. The proposal of the action plan is a result of over a decade of efforts of BirdLife International and it represents a robust strategy to protect seabirds directly threatened by fisheries. Both, the Irish presidency and the MARE Commissioner, Maria Damanaki, expressed their strong support for the action plan today.
Every year at least 200,000 seabirds die as bycatch in fishing gears – mainly longlines and gill-nets but to a lesser extent also trawls and purse seines – of EU fishing vessels, with the Baltic and eastern North Sea accounting for at least half of this toll. All of the victims are protected under EU Birds Directive and for some, such as the endemic Balearic shearwater, this impact risks dire consequences, threatening the species with extinction in the next 40 years. Well beyond EU waters, in the Southern Ocean, 17 out of 22 albatross species are endangered, largely due to incidental catch in the longlines and trawls of fleets which include EU-flagged vessels.
The EU seabird action plan can put a stop to these unnecessary deaths by minimizing and eliminating the catches of seabirds in EU fishing vessels, claims BirdLife International, if effectively implemented by the EU Member States. The problem can be often solved through simple measures such as bird scaring lines or weighting the baited hooks so that they sink faster.
Data on seabird bycatch in fishing gears at Slovenian sea is missing for now. It has been known that the Mediterranean Shags often entangle in fishing nets, mainly gill-nets. In several cases these birds are saved and released by fishermen and marine researchers.