Report of the Workshop to Review and Advise on Seabird Bycatch (WKBYCS)
An ICES-convened Workshop to Review and Advise on Seabird Bycatch (WKBYCS) met from 14 to18 October 2013 at ICES HQ, Copenhagen. Chaired by Jim Reid (UK). Ten participants, invited either by ICES Secretariat or the Chair, attended the meeting. The objective of the meeting was to consider three Terms of Reference relating to seabird bycatch in European waters, including the Baltic, Mediterranean, and Black Seas. This report includes three chapters that address each Term of Reference.
In support of a proposed EC Plan of Action to reduce the incidental catch of seabirds in fisheries, the ICES Working Group on Seabird Ecology (WGSE) has considered and reported on seabird bycatch in commercial fisheries on four previous occasions from 2008 to 2011. Following publication of the Action Plan in 2012, an updated, regional-ised review and summary of research on seabird bycatch undertaken since the earlier reviews is now presented here, although reference to older material is made where appropriate. This shows that the incidental bycatch of seabirds in most fishing gears persists throughout European waters, including the Baltic Sea, the North Atlantic, the North Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Black Sea. There is some geographical variation in patterns of bycatch that result from fishing effort in the various métiers as well as the distributions of seabird species. Most new information comes from the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas, with little information available from the Black Sea. Set gillnets catch possibly unsustainably large numbers of diving birds in the Baltic, whereas longlines pose a particular problem for predominantly surface-feeding shearwaters in the Mediterranean.
The issue of what actually constitutes a bycatch “problem” is discussed. The first step in defining a problem needs to be an assessment of the size of the bycatch in the fisheries of interest, and the necessary and desirable metrics that contribute to this assessment are identified and reiterated from previous initiatives. Defining a seabird bycatch “problem” is less straightforward. The very large bycatch (tens of thousands of birds) of great shearwater in one fishery might well be sustainable in a population context as the species’ global population numbers many millions of individuals. However, this level of bycatch might not be acceptable from a cultural or societal point of view. The mortality of Balearic shearwater in longline, purse-seine and other fisheries off Iberia and in the Mediterranean, however, is probably not sustainable for the population; this is shown to be so by application of the Potential Biological Removal (PBR) tool. PBR would appear to be an appropriate method, although there are others, to assess the conservation consequences of bird bycatch.
In assessing bird bycatch levels in fisheries, reporting and database formats are considered. The recommendation is that reporting should be at EU fishery métiers level 5 (or 6 where feasible), and that fishing effort should be described at least in terms of days at sea, but where feasible using more gear-specific metrics. The workshop saw no need to design a new database to host bird bycatch data; the existing bycatch da-tabase for protected species compiled by the ICES Working Group on Bycatch of Protected Species (WGBYC) should be adequate and be maintained by the ICES DataCentre.
Published under the auspices of the following ICES Steering Group or Committee