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Resource Ecology & Ecosystem Modeling Program

Short-Tailed Albatross Bycatch

figure 5, short-tailed albatross
Figure 5.  A short-tailed albatross in Alaska.  Photo by fisheries observer Jose Vasquez.
 
 

Two observed incidental takes of short-tailed albatross (Fig. 5) in the cod freezer longline fishery were reported in late August and mid-September, the first incidental takes of short-tailed albatross reported since 1998.

The short-tailed albatross is an endangered seabird, and the groundfish demersal longline fishery operates under a Biological Opinion that provides an incidental take of four birds in a 2-year period. The year 2010 is the first year in the current 2-year period. Exceeding the allowable incidental take initiates an Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7 Consultation between NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

According to the information bulletin released by NMFS "The first bird was taken on August 27, 2010, at 56°37 N and 172°57 W in NMFS reporting area 523. The bird had an identifying leg band from its natal breeding colony in Japan. It was a subadult at 7 years and 10 months old. The second bird was also taken in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI) region on September 14, 2010, at 59°20 N and 176°33 W in NMFS reporting area 521. This bird also had an identifying legband and was 3 years and 10 months."

The Alaskan cod freezer longliner fleet has been one of the most proactive fleets anywhere in the world in trying to reduce their bycatch of seabirds. The fleet has been especially concerned with trying to eliminate the bycatch of short-tailed albatross. Given the high levels of observer coverage on these vessels, the fleet can be commended for going 12 years without an observed take and for the nearly 80% reduction overall in seabird bycatch. Its history of collaboration and taking the lead in seabird bycatch reduction is a model for other fisheries.

figure 6, see caption
Figure 6.  Locations and dates of short-tailed albatross takes in the Alaskan demersal groundfish fishery.  Map courtesy of Rob Suryan, Oregon State University, using data on reported takes from the AFSC.
 

The fleet was an integral component of research led by Washington Sea Grant on streamer lines, voluntarily started using streamer lines 2 years before regulations required their use, and has worked throughout it all to take advantage of inseason data produced by the North Pacific Fisheries Observer Program (AFSC Fisheries Monitoring and Analysis Division), to monitor individual vessel performance.

Their efforts continue as AFSC staff work with the Freezer Longline Coalition to develop programs to further reduce seabird bycatch by its vessels. To date, a total of seven short-tailed albatross have been taken in the Alaskan demersal groundfish fishery (blackcod and cod) since 1993 (Fig. 6).

More information is available on the Web at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/index/infobulletins/bulletin.asp?BulletinID=7271.

By Shannon Fitzgerald
 

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