Analyses of seabird bycatch in fisheries selling seafood in the U.S. market

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Seabirds are among the most threatened groups of birds on Earth. Because most seabirds live for decades and reproduce slowly, any adult mortality translates readily to population-level effects. At present, the leading cause of mortality for healthy adult seabirds is accidental death in interactions with fisheries. Although seabirds have always followed boats, fishing gear innovations in the past decades have made the behavior particularly dangerous. Concern over seabird interactions with fisheries swelled in the 1990s with the recognition that large numbers of seabirds were being killed as bycatch during seafood harvest. The fishermen feel beleaguered by regulations, and end up resenting and resisting regulation, which slows progress towards sustainability. Partially in response to frustration with poor progress in international fishing regulations, a number of organizations have developed market or consumer-based approaches. By educating the buyers of seafood about the environmental effects of what they are purchasing, buyers using their market power can influence fishermen to improve their fishing methods and to use best practices, thereby improving the sustainability of their fisheries. Market-based incentives change the dynamic and offer an avenue for progress. To assist buyers in knowing what fisheries are doing better with regard to sustainability, ABC has undertaken the analysis presented here, of a group of the largest fisheries bringing seafood to US markets and which also are likely to have significant impacts on seabirds through bycatch or other direct mortality. This analysis can then be used by seafood buyers to determine which fisheries are more sustainable with regards to seabirds. We are working with organizations already active in the field of sustainable seafood, such as the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, FishWise, and the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, to provide them with this information so they can incorporate it in their evaluations and scoring systems, and then pass it on to their corporate partners, clients, and buyers. In this way, the information can be provided at the appropriate points to be most immediately useful.

Conservancy, The Plains, Virginia, USA
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