Pod device saves seabirds

Conservationists back sheathed hooks that almost eliminate the bycatch of albatrosses.

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Black browed albatross sitting in the nest, South Sandwich Islands, Antarctica.
Thousands of black-browed albatrosses die on longlines every year, though the species is still numerous and not regarded as threatened. © mzphoto11/iStock

 

A British invention designed to spare albatrosses and petrels from a grisly death on the hooks trailed by longline fishing fleets has been backed by experts.

Tens of thousands of seabirds die annually on hooks intended for fish. The device – Hookpod – protects birds attracted to the bait by shielding the hook until it reaches a predetermined depth.

In trials conducted in Australia, South Africa and Brazil, Hookpod dramatically reduced seabird bycatch with no loss of fish yields. A single bird died on Hookpod-equipped boats compared with 24 on lines with standard gear.

Now the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) is recommending Hookpod and another device, the Smart Tuna Hook (STH), as “best practice” for fisheries.

Hookpod CEO Becky Ingham said, “Now we’ve got scientific recognition to get Hookpod adopted on a wider scale.”

Currently most fisheries require boats to use at least two bycatch-mitigation methods from a list that includes setting lines at night, weights to submerge the hooks rapidly and streamers to deter birds. But ACAP is recommending Hookpod and STH as stand-alone measures.

Both products are claimed to make economic sense even where mitigation measures are not enforced. Hookpod, for example, integrates weights and LEDs into one device and reduces long-term costs.

Mark Tasker of ACAP’s advisory committee said, “We hope that these devices will help persuade fishermen to do the right thing.”

Find out more at www.hookpod.com

Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine

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