Namibia Switches to Safer Fishing Lines
A cheap and simple change to the equipment used by Namibian fishing boats is saving tens of thousands of vulnerable seabirds annually, researchers have estimated. Some industrial fleets often use long lines fitted with thousands of baited hooks, which attract seabirds. In attempting to snatch away the bait, the birds can become tangled in the lines and die. But by fitting pieces of red or yellow hosepipe, each a few metres long, to separate lines towed behind boats, they have succeeded in scaring away the birds and preventing huge numbers of deaths, according to a study in the Biological Conservation journal. More than 22,000 birds were estimated to have been accidentally killed by long-line fishing gear in 2009. But just 215 are thought to have died in 2018, despite boats using more hooks that year. Among the many species to have benefited are white-chinned petrels, Atlantic yellow-nosed albatrosses and cape gannets, whose populations are all declining. The waters off Namibia’s coast are rich in nutrients and support an abundance of marine life. For seabirds, it is a crucial feeding ground. But, in the past, boats would sometimes collect boxes full of dead birds that had snagged themselves on fishing lines.
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