Recommended changes to regulations impacting some commercial fisheries off Alaska should benefit threatened seabirds including the ACAP-listed Laysan Phoebastria immutabilis, Black-footed P. nigripes and Short-tailed P. albatrus Albatrosses. The changes have been approved by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, one of eight regional councils established to oversee management of U.S. fisheries, and now await final approval.
The changes include extending the presence of fisheries observers to additional fleets. Among their other fish-related tasks observers monitor interactions between fishing vessels and seabirds.
Observers would be required aboard specified vessels in the commercial Pacific Halibut Hippoglossus stenolepis fleet. Coverage would also be extended to groundfish vessels that are less than sixty feet (18.3 m) in length, which are currently exempt from the need to carry observers. Decisions on when and where observers would be assigned would be made by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service.
The observer programme was implemented in the U.S. domestic fishing fleet in Alaska in 1990 (click here). An observer's duties include collecting information on the incidental take of seabirds, including of the three ACAP albatross species. This information is critical to estimating total bycatch of seabirds in these fisheries. Efforts to reduce seabird bycatch have contributed to reductions in the number of albatrosses killed by commercial fishing vessels off Alaska from over 1100 in 1993 to less than 200 in 2006.
Two Short-tailed Albatrosses died in Alaskan fisheries in 2010 (click here).
John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 7 January 2011