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Extract from

It Can't Go On Forever
Greepeace International

Longline Death Toll on Albatross and Other Seabirds

A timeless seafaring symbol, immortalized in Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, albatrosses roam widely across vast expanses of the oceans of the world, rarely coming ashore except to breed on remote oceanic islands in or near the Southern Ocean.

Unfortunately for the various species of albatross in this remote part of the world, fleets of hundreds of fishing vessels from Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Indonesia hunt the prized southern bluefin tuna.

Albatross and other seabird species are caught and dragged underwater to their deaths on these deadly, baited hooks as they are launched from the ships.

As many as 100 million hooks a year have been set by the Japanese fleet in the southern bluefin tuna fishery, for instance, so it is not surprising that tens of thousands of birds are being killed annually.

One conservative calculation for albatross killed on Japanese longliners is 44,000 per year. The actual figure could be double that, according to researchers, but data on albatross kills by other nations' fishing vessels are not available.

Twelve of the world's 14 albatross species are believed to be dying in their tens of thousands each year in this way. Because of the large number of birds affected, commercial fishing has been identified as the most serious threat to the survival of most albatross species.

Other Victims - Sea Turtles

Species of sea turtles are other hapless victims of incidental capture in fishing gear.

Twenty thousand loggerhead turtles are captured every year by the Spanish longline fishery in the Mediterranean Sea, and four thousand of them are believed to die because they are returned to the sea with the hook still embedded in the throat.

In shrimp trawl fisheries off the southern United States the issue of marine turtle bycatch came to wide public attention relatively recently, largely because of the estimated 48,000 sea turtles caught annually by shrimp fishermen.

The US National Marine Fisheries Service estimates that more than 11,000 of these were dying annually. Only after intense pressure from environmental groups was remedial action taken to modify trawl nets to exclude turtles from the catch. It remains to be seen just how effective these efforts will be.

If the current levels of fishing effort are not reduced, the impacts on marine animals such as dolphins, seabirds and sea turtles will increase unless governments act swiftly.

First, by dramatically reducing the level of fishing effort so that there are far fewer vessels with the capacity to take too many fish.

Second, by ensuring that fishing gear and practices responsible for this unnecessary carnage are either made safe or abandoned in favour of methods that avoid deadly interactions and thus spare threatened species of marine wildlife from extinction.