A new study has come out detailing the effects of gillnet fishing on bird populations. Gillnets, which are designed to trap fish by the gills, will also catch birds. Eyewitness reports are one of the main ways gillnet caused seabird mortality is analyzed. Now a Canadian research team is taking a new approach to analyzing the affects of this type of fishing.
On the east coast of Canada, most fisheries were shut down in 1992 when the stocks collapsed. This gave ecologists a perfect location to study the effects of gillnetting on the populations of murres and gannets, diving birds often caught in these nets. They compared the population trends between 1968 and 2012 with data on gillnet use between 1987 and 2012, and found that the murre and gannet populations have increased after the decline of commercial fisheries in Canada. This study provides evidence to support the theory that net fishing is harming seabird populations.
Due to the results of this study, the ecologists are suggesting a switch from gillnet fishing to pot-trap fishing for the remainder of Canada’s fisheries. Pot traps, which allow fish to swim in but not out, are harmless to birds. In addition, they are recommending Canada establish more marine protected areas in which all commercial fishing is banned.
Read more about this research here.