A review of European bycatch identifies the Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater as at risk

Catarina Vitorino Balearic Shearwater Mixed media Pep Arcos
Balearic Shearwater, mixed media by Catarina Vitorino for ACAP, after a photograph by Pep Arcos

Iván Ramírez (Secretariat of the Convention on Migratory Species, Bonn, Germany) and colleagues have published open access in the journal Animal Conservation on a review of seabird bycatch in European waters.  Fisheries bycatch is considered the biggest threat to the ACAP-listed and Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus, endemic to European waters.

The paper’s abstract follows:

jEuropean species that demands urgent conservation and management action. Here, we present the first European review of seabird bycatch data, considering all fishing gears and data collection methods available in the region. We calculate seabird bycatch numbers per species, family, country and European marine region and assess the reliability of the data available. The cumulative bycatch estimate extracted from this review suggests that about 195,000 seabirds (ranging from around 130,000 to 380,000) are bycaught in European waters annually. The most affected seabird species is the Common Guillemot Uria aalge with over 31,000 birds killed per year. The marine region with the highest bycatch estimate is the Northeast Atlantic (over 115,000 seabirds year−1). Gillnet fisheries are responsible for the highest bycatch levels, with over 95,000 seabirds year−1, followed by longline fisheries. The families most affected by bycatch are Anatidae and Alcidae. These numbers are likely an underestimation since we were unable to find bycatch estimates, or to extrapolate estimates from available bycatch data for 12 (out of 34) European coastal states. Our assessment also identified significant data gaps in key areas such as Gran Sol (in the north-east Atlantic), the central and Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Combining systematic data collection with immediate implementation of mitigation measures will be crucial to fill in knowledge gaps, reduce current mortality levels and meet international conservation commitments such as those of the European Union and the Convention on Migratory Species”.

Read a popular account of the publication here.


Ramírez, I., Mitchell, D., Vulcano, A., Rouxel, Y., Marchowski, D., Almeida, A., Arcos, M., Cortes, V., Lange, G., Morkūnas, J., Oliveira, N. & Paiva, V.H. 2024.   Seabird bycatch in European waters.  Animal Conservation  doi.org/10.1111/acv.12948.

05 July 2024

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