We conducted a survey to investigate the factors influencing the number of seabirds attending a research vessel during scientific trawling activities near the northern Antarctic Peninsula. Our objective was to assess whether seabirds exhibited differing levels of attendance that may be attributed to fishing activity. Counts of seabirds attending the vessel were made during non-fishing periods, net deployment, towing, and retrieving. We also monitored environmental variables (e.g., pressure, wind speed and direction) and discards of fish and offal to determine whether they could be used to explain variability in seabird attendance. Three species, the Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys, Cape Petrel Daption capense and Wilson’s Storm Petrel Oceanites oceanicus were the most common seabirds attending the vessel. We found that abundance of seabirds did not differ among fishing activities, although the presence of discard caused an increase in numbers of petrels and albatrosses. Our study is the first to examine seabird-vessel attendance to scientific trawling activities in Antarctic waters where there is a moratorium on commercial finfish fishing. By comparison to other studies, the level of fishing conducted during this study is not anywhere near that of commercial fishing (i.e., catch rate and fishing duration). Nevertheless, it is important to monitor seabird attendance to fishing vessels so that proper mitigation and conservation actions are met to protect seabirds.
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