For hundreds of years fishermen and seabirds have been sharing the sea, as collaborators, rather than competitors. However, the introduction of modern fishing gear and practices, and their increasing use has disturbed this balance at the expense of seabirds. Seabird mortality by accidental trapping in fishing gear (seabird bycatch) is a worldwide phenomenon which has been identified to be among the major threats to seabirds together with overfishing and degradation of marine habitats.
The Aegean and Ionian Sea, as the rest of the Mediterranean Sea, are no exception in this matter. In Greece, all seabird species including those of conservation concern, such as the Mediterranean Shag and the Audouin’s Gull, are victims of seabird bycatch. Although the problem is well known in Greece, up until present LIFE project, no systematic assessment of bycatch has been carried out, meaning that the extent of accidental trapping of seabirds in the fishing gear, and therefore its impact on the national populations of seabirds species have not been yet determined.
Therefore, the present LIFE project is aiming to assess the extent of seabird bycatch, as well as its temporal and spatial variations in the wider marine areas of the project sites in the Ionian and Aegean Sea by means of on-board observations andquestionnaires, to fishermen.
This information will be evaluated in order to determine the main factors affecting seabird bycatch and to propose, in collaboration with fishermen, alternative fishing gear and practices that reduce the risk of seabird bycatch. For this purpose, a series of meetings with fishermen and an information dissemination campaign will be carried out.
The collection of data for the assessment of seabird bycatch is being implemented by the TEI of Ionian islands in the Ionian Sea and by the HCMR in collaboration with HOS and MOm in the Aegean Sea.
|Observation on board of vessels of large pelagic fishery during 2009
|active fishing days by area. (Small ring represents one fishing day)/ HCMR
||Fishing effort (in hooks) per area ((Small ring represents 500 hooks))/ ΕΛΚΕΘΕ
Until the summer of 2010, 127 fishing trips with on-board observers have been carried out in all major fishing areas of the Aegean and Ionian Sea.
Additional information is being collected through questionnaires for fishermen (pdf )
Preliminary results of seabird bycatch assessment in the Ionian Sea, presented at the 3rd International Eurasian Ornithology Congress –Mytilini-Greece, April 2010.