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Resource Ecology & Ecosystem Modeling Program

Seabird Coordinated Studies

seabird/paravane interaction session
Figure 1.  A seabird/paravane interaction session.  The paravane cable runs down into the water from near the end of the boom (and back to the vessel under the boom).  All other lines control the boom or are used to deploy and retrieve the block used to deploy the paravane.  Very few interactions were recorded with these lines.  Note the gull perched on the boom.  Photo by Todd Loomis, Cascade Fishing, Inc.
 

With funding from the National Cooperative Research Program and the NMFS Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program, a pilot study on seabird interactions with paravanes was conducted in August.

A paravane is a device that trawl operators use to obtain signals from net monitoring equipment. The paravane receives acoustic signals as it is deployed at 5 or more fathoms deep via a boom alongside the vessel (Fig. 1). Because seabirds are often attracted to vessels to take advantage of fish discharge, they may come into contact with this gear. This study is the first work in the North Pacific on seabird paravane interactions.

Project goals were to 1) learn about the basic usage of paravane gear, 2) obtain baseline information on seabird interactions with the paravane gear, and 3) attempt to develop and deploy at least three different types of mitigation measures.

Industry partners included the North Pacific Fisheries Foundation and Cascade Fishing, Inc., owners of the fishing trawler Seafisher. This study was needed due to a potential for interactions between paravanes and the endangered short-tailed albatross (Phobastria albatrus).

A biologist experienced with seabird mitigation was deployed to the trawler Seafisher for one trip 8-16 August 2009. During this period, all of the stated goals of the pilot project were achieved.

There were 20 observation sessions of seabird/paravane interactions (without mitigation measures), which will provide baseline interaction rates for comparisons to rates while mitigation measures were deployed. The crew and biologist worked together to test six different types of mitigation measures. The biologist was able to conduct another 20 observation periods of these measures.

There were no seabird mortalities or injuries associated with the paravane during this trip. Interaction rates varied from 0 to 138 per 15-minute observation session. Nearly all interactions were by Northern Fulmars (Fulmaris glacialis) and were of the paravane cable itself rather than the various lines supporting or controlling the paravane boom.

The AFSC also hosted the first strategic planning workshop for the NMFS National Seabird Program on 9-11 September 2009. The purpose of the workshop was to assess the current state of the program and to consider how the program can best address emerging issues related to seabird conservation, within U.S. waters and on the high seas.

AFSC Science and Research Director Dr. Doug DeMaster gave opening remarks and thanked participants for their efforts to study and conserve these important living marine species. Topics of discussion included NMFS expertise in the study of seabirds at sea and in reducing seabird bycatch in fisheries, the importance of interagency collaboration, and the applicability of seabirds as indicators of changes in the marine environment, among others.

NMFS shares responsibility for the conservation of seabirds with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through its role managing fisheries one of the greatest known threats of seabird populations worldwide.

The workshop was organized by Kim Rivera (NMFS Alaska Regional Office and NMFS National Seabird Program Coordinator). Participants included NMFS staff from each of the regional offices, science centers, and from headquarters, as well as staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the academic community, and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

By Shannon Fitzgerald
 

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