Wednesday November 16, 2022

Alaska Public Media

Bycatch, the incidental catch of untargeted species in commercial fisheries, is not just about salmon, crab and other fish. Seabirds are also caught and killed unintentionally in fishing gear.

A newly released annual report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows some mixed but mostly positive trends for bycatch of birds in Alaska halibut and groundfish harvests.

Overall, 4,509 birds were killed through bycatch in those fisheries in 2021, a little over two-thirds of the annual average of 6,592 reported from 2011 to 2020, according to the report from NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. A likely factor in the relatively low bycatch total was the decline in overall fishing trips connected in part to the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, the annual report said. The total of 12,873 recorded trips conducted in these fisheries last year was lower than any annual total from 2011 to 2020. In contrast, the highest number of fishing trips in the period was 19,246 recorded in 2016, and that was also the year with the most seabirds killed in bycatch in the period, nearly 10,500, according to the report.

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