Reducing seabird strikes with trawl cables in the pollock catcher-processor fleet in the eastern Bering Sea

Melvin, E.F., Dietrich, K.S., Fitzgerald, S., Cardoso, T.
Journal/Publisher Name
Polar Biology
Volume (Issue #)
DOI 10.1007/s00300-010-0873-1
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In northern hemisphere trawl fisheries, little is known about the extent of cable strike seabird mortality or techniques to mitigate it. We compared the rate of heavy seabird strikes by third-wire cables and warps, using three mitigation measures compared to a control of no mitigation. Experiments were conducted aboard two catcher-processor vessels targeting walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) in the eastern Bering Sea: one that rendered offal into fish meal and fish oil (Vessel R) and one that minced offal prior to discharge (Vessel M). More birds attended Vessel M, but the rate of seabird cable strikes was higher on Vessel R due to the greater aerial extent of its cables. Streamer lines significantly reduced heavy seabird strikes by both cable types regardless of discharge characteristics. Reducing the aerial extent of third wires also reduced third-wire strike rates, but this method was less effective than streamer lines. Warp booms designed to divert seabirds from warps failed to reduce seabird warp strikes, but this technique could be improved. These results show for the first time that seabird strikes with modern third-wire trawl sonar cable systems can be reduced through mitigation or gear modification and that warp strikes can be mitigated with techniques similar to those found successful in southern hemisphere fisheries.