Longline fisheries have expanded throughout the world’s oceans since major commercial distant-water pelagic fleets began fishing for tuna and tuna-like species in the early 1950s. Along with the more recent development and expansion of demersal longline fleets for species such as Patagonian toothfish, these vessels are a major source of mortality to several species of seabird. Vessels can set many thousands of baited hooks in a day across many kilometres of water. These waters are often used as foraging areas by wide-ranging seabirds. Attracted by baits and offal, the birds can be caught on the baited hooks and subsequently drown. To provide a greater understanding of the potential impact of the Southern Ocean’s longline fleets on seabird populations, this paper describes the trends in longline effort of the major pelagic and demersal fisheries in southern waters. The total reported effort from all longline fleets south of 30?S has been well over 250 million hooks per year since the early 1990s. However the spatial and temporal distribution of this effort has not been constant. While effort from the Japanese pelagic distant-water longline fleet declined through the 1990s, the Taiwanese fleet expanded dramatically. Likewise demersal fishing for toothfish increased markedly during the mid-1990s. These fisheries, along with substantial illegal longline fisheries, may be placing the long-term viability of many Southern Ocean species of seabird in jeopardy.
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