Saturday, September 17, 2011

Oregon bycatch: Short-tailed Albatross

Sad news from a recent announcement by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council as reported by the American Bird Conservancy.

An endangered Short-tailed Albatross was killed as bycatch off Oregon this past spring. Once numbering in the millions, they were hunted to near extinction in the early 20th century. Their numbers have built to nearly 3000 today.

"Bycatch" is the name for all the fish, dolphins, birds and other animals that were not the intended fishing target. These "accidental catch" can be hauled up in nets or caught on baited hooks, as this albatross apparently was.

I was previously unaware that any longline fishing was done off Oregon. In fact, I thought a ruling in October 2002 prohibited longline fishing off Washington, Oregon, and California. So this must be an experimental longlining hake fishery.

Of course, the albatross that was killed was probably an all-dark juvenile, not the white, gold, and black bird in the photo accompanying the ABC article. There are only 17 reports of Short-tailed Albatross in Oregon, though they are increasing in recent years and are probably offshore late fall through spring in small numbers when weather prevents many smaller vessels from going offshore to look.

I appreciated the remark by Robert Alverson, Executive Director of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association in Seattle, Washington. He said, "Albatross bycatch benefits no one, and our fleets are very interested in minimizing any negative impact on seabirds."

Indeed, US fisheries have made significant progress in the past few years reducing seabird bycatch, especially in longline fisheries off Hawaii and Alaska.

For more information: Report on the Bycatch of Marine Mammals and Seabirds by the US West Coast Groundfish Fleet.


  1. I have learned that it is Sablefish longlining. Now, as to what a sablefish is, I don't have a clue. Ah, Black Cod. Thank you, wikipedia.

  2. I used to be very keen on tinned Tuna, but the "bycatch" issue means it stays on the supermarket shelf for me these days...