Lithuanian authorities reported six instances of seabird bycatch between 2015-2019. Because of this it’s too good to be true.

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Yearly, tens of millions of seabirds journey to the Baltic Sea for the winter.  However this isn’t a journey with out peril. For these within the know, this area is notorious for being a worldwide hotspot for seabird bycatch. The primary perpetrator being gillnets. However the Lithuanian authorities is diving deep into murky waters to maintain their bycatch drawback a secret.

A brand new paper by BirdLife Europe & Central Asia, and BirdLife Companions the Lithuanian Ornithological Society (LOD) and the Royal Society for the Safety of Birds (RSPB) reveals knowledge collected between 2015-2020, exhibiting that 1,500 to three,000 seabirds are bycaught yearly in gillnets by the Lithuanian coastal fishing fleet. The bulk are caught between December and March, peak seabird interval. 15 species have been recorded as bycatch, with two species, the Lengthy-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) and the Velvet Scooter (Melanitta fusca), accounting for greater than two-thirds of the entire variety of bycaught people. Each species are globally threatened (Weak on the IUCN Pink Record) and their populations have been declining within the Baltic Sea because the early 1990’s.

The estimate within the paper is much like an earlier estimate from 2009 of three,000 to five,000 birds/12 months. That is regardless of a big decline in seabird numbers within the Baltic Sea, a big discount of Lithuania’s fishing fleet, and the introduction of EU laws to minimise bycatch.

Velvet Scoter, copyright Glyn Sellors, from the surfbirds galleries

While the estimate of 1,500-3,000 might seem modest to some, it is very important put in context. The 92 kilometres of Lithuanian shoreline represents a small a part of the complete Baltic Sea shoreline, which stretches some 8,000km. Including to the truth that Lithuania’s coastal fleet carries out the everyday fishing actions discovered throughout the Baltic Sea, it may be deduced that the extent of seabird bycatch on this area are vital.

Curiously, the Lithuanian Authorities has formally reported a complete of six bycaught birds between 2015 and 2019. That’s greater than 7,000 birds lower than our decrease estimate for this era. This reveals the extent to which official figures are underrepresenting the true stage of seabird bycatch because of the failure of the Lithuanian Authorities to place in place correct knowledge assortment. Sadly, this case is replicated in international locations throughout the Baltic Sea area.

In lots of instances we will scale back seabird bycatch by way of comparatively easy and low-cost measures. Nevertheless, there’s not often a one-size-fits-all answer highlighting the necessity to work with fishers to search out essentially the most appropriate answer taking account of their fishing vessels and practices. The dearth of correct knowledge on seabird bycatch tremendously hinders the identification of precedence areas for motion and efforts to establish and develop options.

It’s important that the European Fee requires Member States to determine efficient methods of knowledge assortment on bycatch of delicate species, and that Baltic Sea international locations, together with Lithuania, fulfil their obligation beneath EU laws and put in administration measures to minimise bycatch and arrange correct monitoring to permit the effectiveness of those measures to be evaluated.

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