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Fishermen try to reduce seabird deaths

February 12, 2009 |  6:24 pm

Blackfootedalbatross A West Coast fishermen's organization is trying to minimize the accidental killing of seabirds from long-line fishing, instructing its members to use streamer lines when fishing off the coast of Washington, Oregon and California.

The Fishing Vessel Owners' Assn., a trade association that represents long-line fishermen in the West Coast, has instructed its members to use streamer lines, which are designed to keep birds from diving into the water to eat bait.

Long-line fishing is used to catch tuna, mahi mahi and other commercial fish. For years, long-line fishing vessels -- which use fishing lines up to 40 miles long, dangling thousands of baited hooks -- have been accidentally killing seabirds that get snared on the hooks. Birds often follow fishing boats hoping for an easy meal, and can drown when trying to eat the bait attached to the hooks. Off the West Coast, the endangered black-footed albatross is particularly at risk.

Streamer lines are polyester rope strung above the water on either side of the fishing line. The colored streamers that hang from the line create a "fence" that prevents birds from diving on baited hooks.

-- Catherine Ho

Photo: The endangered black-footed albatross is one of many seabird species accidentally killed by long-line fishing. A fishermen's organization announced efforts Thursday to reduce accidental seabird deaths by using equipment designed to keep birds from diving into the water to reach bait. Credit: American Bird Conservancy

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