Challenges

To birds — especially seabirds — fisheries pose serious threats. The birds may become caught in nets or stuck on hooks, ultimately drowning. Surviving that, they may find it difficult to find the fish they need to eat.

Titicaca Grebe drowned in gillnet, Dan Lebbin

Gill Nets & Birds

Gill nets, used in the Mid-Atlantic for shad and in the Pacific for salmon, inadvertently catch birds, which drown when they become entangled.

Although they account for less than 0.5 percent of fish caught nationally, the fishery is responsible for the annual deaths of tens of thousands of birds, including seabirds such as the Laysan Albatross, murrelets, and loons.

Black-browed Albatross hooked on longline, Fabiano Peppes

Longlines

Demand for large ocean fish is at an all-time high. As a result, fleets of longline fishing vessels scour the oceans, accidentally snagging hundreds of thousands of albatrosses and other seabirds, including Waved Albatross, on baited hooks.

The lines used can reach up to 60 miles long, carrying as many as 30,000 hooks baited to catch tuna, swordfish, cod, halibut, and other fish. While the lines are being set, birds grab the bait, become stuck on the hooks, and drown.

400 tons of fish caught by a Chilean purse seiner, Ortiz Rojas

Overfishing

Overfishing can be simply defined as “catching too much fish for natural systems to support.” According to overfishing.org, 25 percent of all the world’s fish stocks are either overexploited or depleted. Another 52 percent is fully exploited and in imminent danger of overexploitation and collapse.

That means that almost 80 percent of the world’s fisheries are fully- to over-exploited, depleted, or in a state of collapse. In addition, worldwide about 90 percent of the stocks of large predatory fish stocks are already gone.

Snapper fisheries are one of the worst for bycatch, oneinchpunch/Shutterstock

Lack of Awareness

Because seafood is readily available and often reasonably priced, many people are unaware of the hidden costs of today’s fishing methods — from the waste of intended bycatch of species ranging from sea turtles to birds, to the industrial fleets that harvest fish at unsustainable levels.

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