|NOAA NMFS 2001-02AKR
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Carol Tocco
NOAA Fisheries announces the availability of a report intended to identify the best and most practical options for monitoring the incidental catch of the endangered short-tailed albatross in the Pacific halibut fishery in federally-managed waters off Alaska. NOAA Fisheries will use the report to prepare and implement a monitoring plan for these seabirds.
"We're pleased with the longline groundfish fleet's efforts to reduce seabird bycatch," said Jim Balsiger, Alaska regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries, "And we anticipate similar positive results as we work with the halibut fleet to protect this endangered seabird population."
The presence of "free" food in the form of offal and bait attract many birds to fishing operations. In the process of feeding, birds sometimes come into contact with fishing gear and are accidentally killed. For example, most birds taken during hook-and-line operations are attracted to the baited hooks when the gear is being set. These birds become hooked at the surface, and are then dragged underwater and drown. The endangered short-tailed albatross occurs in areas where commercial fisheries occur off Alaska, and seven have been reported taken since 1983.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a biological opinion on March 13, 1998, that concluded that the Pacific halibut fishery off Alaska is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the short-tailed albatross, but identified several non-discretionary reasonable and prudent measures to minimize the impact of incidental take that may occur. One of the reasonable and prudent measures directed NOAA Fisheries to prepare and implement a plan to investigate all options for monitoring the Pacific halibut fishery in waters off Alaska and, if deemed necessary, to institute changes to the fishery based upon the evaluation of the seabird deterrent devices and methods.
The report was prepared by the International Pacific Halibut Commission, at the request of NOAA Fisheries, to provide information necessary for determining a suitable and cost-effective method to monitor the Pacific halibut fishery for seabird bycatch. NOAA Fisheries will begin the development of this monitoring plan in early 2001 and will actively seek the input of halibut fishermen, who may be affected by such a plan. NOAA Fisheries will also work with the USFWS, the IPHC, and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. As it becomes available, more information on this developing plan can be found at http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/protectedresources/seabirds.html
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