The study, published in the journal Endangered Species Research and being presented today at the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity, reports that some seabird species are being pushed towards extinction as many fishing fleets fail to implement simple measures to prevent bycatch.
The most frequently caught species are albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, with the total number of seabird deaths estimated at 160,000 to 320,000 a year. Of particular concern are the Spanish longline fleet in the Gran Sol fishing grounds off southwest Ireland, which may kill over 50,000 birds a year, as well as the Japanese tuna fleet, which may kill 20,000 birds a year.
The study only looked at longline fisheries and did not take into account seabird deaths associated with trawl and gillnet fisheries. These may also be making a significant contribution to seabird mortality.
According to Orea Anderson, the lead author of the study, "It is little wonder that so many of the affected seabird species are threatened with extinction — their slow rate of reproduction is simply incapable of compensating for losses on the scale this study has demonstrated."