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National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Regional Office

Short-tailed Albatross, photo: Hiroshi Hasegawa

Seabird Bycatch Reduction Program - Guide for Alaska Fishermen

Seabird Avoidance Gear and Methods:
Information for Alaska Fishermen

Seabird Bycatch

The presence of "free" food in the form of offal and bait attracts many birds to fishing operations. In past years, more than 20,000 seabirds were hooked annually in groundfish fisheries off Alaska. Most birds taken during longline operations are attracted to the baited hooks when the gear is being set. These birds become hooked at the surface, and are then dragged underwater where they drown. 75 percent of total number of birds hooked are northern fulmars and gulls, although most regulatory and conservation attention is focused on bycatch of the endangered short-tailed albatross. With the use of seabird avoidance measures (e.g. paired and single streamer lines), seabird bycatch has been reduced four-fold.

Regulations
  • Current Regulations
  • Final rule eliminating seabird avoidance requirements for vessels less than or equal to 55 ft (16.8 m) length overall in the the hook–and–line groundfish and halibut fisheries in International Pacific Halibut Commission Area 4E. Effective April 27, 2009.
  • 72 FR 71601, December 18, 2007. Final rule to revise the seabird avoidance measures for the Alaska hook-and-line groundfish and halibut fisheries. Effective January 17, 2008.
  • News Release: December 18, 2007

Related Documents

Who Must Use Seabird Avoidance Measures?

NMFS Enforcement Officer Wynn Carney inspecting seabird avoidance gear in Sitka
NMFS Enforcement Officer Wynn Carney inspecting seabird avoidance gear in Sitka. Photo: NOAA Fisheries
Seabird avoidance measures apply to the operators of vessels longer than 26 ft LOA using hook-and-line gear for:
  • Pacific halibut in the Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) and Community Development Quota (CDQ) management programs (0 to 200 nautical miles (nm)),
  • IFQ sablefish in EEZ waters (3 to 200 nm), waters of the State of Alaska (0 to 3 nm), and groundfish (except IFQ sablefish) with hook-and-line gear in the U.S. EEZ waters off Alaska (3 to 200 nm).
  • Other than noted above, vessel operators using hook-and-line gear and fishing for groundfish in waters of the State of Alaska must refer to seabird avoidance measures in State regulations. See 5AAC 28.055.
  • Exemption: Operators of vessels 32 ft (9.8 m) LOA or less using hook-and-line gear in IPHC Area 4E in waters shoreward of the EEZ are exempt from seabird avoidance regulations.

What are the Seabird Avoidance Requirements?

  • Standards for streamer lines must be used on hook-and-line vessels greater than 26 ft (7.9 m) and less than or equal to 55 ft (16.8 m) fishing in the EEZ (see the regulations for the specific standards).
  • Seabird avoidance requirements are no longer required for all hook-and-line vessels fishing in Prince William Sound (NMFS Area 649), the State waters of Cook Inlet, and Southeast Alaska (NMFS Area 659) EXCEPT for certain areas in the inside waters of Southeast Alaska.
  • The 3 exception areas are:
    1. Lower Chatham Strait south of a straight line between Point Harris (latitude 56° 17.25 N.) and Port Armstrong,
    2. Dixon Entrance defined as the State groundfish statistical areas 325431 and 325401, and
    3. Cross Sound west of a straight line from Point Wimbledon extending south through the Inian Islands to Point Lavinia (longitude 136° 21.17 E.).
    4. Maps of these areas
  • A Seabird Avoidance Plan is no longer required.
  • The requirement to use one “other device” is removed.
  • Vessels greater than 26 ft (7.9 m) and less than or equal to 55 ft (16.8 m) may use discretion with seabird avoidance requirements when winds exceed 30 knots (near gale or Beaufort 7 conditions).

What Type of ‘Bird Scaring Line' Must be Used?

Streamer lines. Photo: Ed Melvin, WSGP
Streamer lines. Photo: Ed Melvin, WSGP.
video camera imageVideo clip: (9 MB) Alaska longliner streamer lines in use, Mark Buckley, Digital Observer, Inc.

The type of ‘bird scaring line' you are required to use depends on the area you fish, the length of your vessel, the superstructure of your vessel, and the type of hook-and-line gear you use (e.g. snap gear). See Table 20 and the actual regulations at 50 CFR Part 679.24(e)(2) for your specific requirements.

  • Larger vessels [greater than 55 ft (16.8 m) length overall (LOA)] in the EEZ must use paired streamer lines of a specified performance and material standard.
  • Smaller vessels [greater than 26 ft (7.9 m) LOA and less than or equal to 55 ft LOA] must use a single streamer line or, in limited instances, a buoy bag line. Required performance and material standards are now specified for smaller vessels.
  • See Table 20 of Part 679

Are Free Streamer Lines Still Available to Alaska Fishermen?

No. Fishermen using hook-and-line gear in groundfish and halibut fisheries off Alaska are now providing their own streamer lines. The 'free streamer line program' that was funded by US Fish & Wildlife Service and NMFS for many years is now being used for longline fishermen in the U.S. West Coast groundfish fisheries. West Coast fisheries are now developing a seabird bycatch reduction program, similar to Alaska's. Commercially available streamer lines for Alaska fisheries can be found through the LFSI, contact Jamie Eik, 1-800-647-2135. For more information on these lines, see http://www.psmfc.org/streamers/


What Do I Do if I See or if I Accidentally Hook a Short-tailed Albatross?

We continue to be concerned about the endangered short-tailed albatross, the world population is estimated at about only 4,000 birds. We ask that you report all observations of short-tailed albatross to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services using the form found at http://www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/protectedresources/seabirds/repform.pdf. In the rare event that you accidentally hook a short-tailed albatross, we need to know that too! If you have a fisheries observer onboard your vessel, the observer will report the short-tailed albatross take to NMFS. If there is not an observer onboard your vessel, we request that you retain the albatross specimen and report it immediately to NMFS or the US Fish & Wildlife Service. The US Fish & Wildlife Service can be reached at 1-800-272-4174 or contact Ellen Lance at 907-271-1467; further instructions on what to do with the albatross will be provided.


What Do I Do if I Accidentally Hook Birds While Hauling Gear and They Come Onboard Alive?

Regulations continue to require that every reasonable effort be made to ensure that birds brought on board alive are released alive. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) says that these live birds should be released on site if they meet ALL of the following criteria:

  • Bird can stand and walk using both feet.
  • Bird can flap both wings and there is no apparent wing droop.
  • Bird is alert, active, holds its head up and reacts to stimuli.
  • Bird is not bleeding freely.
  • Wing and tail feathers have not been lost and are in good condition.
  • Bird is waterproof (water beads up on feathers).

If the bird does not meet all of these criteria, then see Appendix 2 of the USFWS Biological Opinion on the Effects of the Total Allowable Catch-Setting Process for the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Groundfish Fisheries to the Endangered Short-tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus) and Threatened Steller's Eider (Polysticta stelleri), September 2003, for details on how to care for the bird.


Additional Information



The Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act requires agencies to publish one or more Small Entity Compliance Guides for each rule or group of related rules for which the agency prepares a Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis. The Small Entity Compliance Guide is to be written in plain language and explain the actions a small entity must take to comply with the rule or group of rules. NMFS has prepared this webpage, "Seabird Bycatch Information for Alaska Fishermen" as a Small Entity Compliance Guide for the seabird avoidance measures. For the exact regulatory language, refer to Title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations part 679.24(e).



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