Fishing boats off the coast of Namibia unintentionally kill thousands of seabirds a year. The problem lies with the long fishing lines that industrial fleets use to lure fish, which are fitted with thousands of baited hooks.
When the birds try to snatch away the bait, they can become tangled in the lines and die.
In an effort to spare the lives of thousands of birds, Namibian boats have found that a simple and cheap change of equipment does the trick. According to a study in the Biological Conservation journal, what the fishermen are doing is fitting pieces of red or yellow hosepipe, each a few meters long, to separate the lines being towed behind the boats.
Apparently, the colored lines scare away the birds and prevent great numbers of deaths. In fact, while an estimated 22,000 were accidentally killed by long-line fishing gear in 2009, the new technique caused only an estimated 215 to die in 2018.
“In many other areas where I work where we lose threatened species, it would be unheard of to reduce mortality by 90% over a decade,” said co-author Steffen Oppel at the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science in Cambridge.
Namibia’s coastline is abundant with marine life and a crucial feeding ground for seabirds. The simple change in equipment is said to have benefited species such as Atlantic Yellow-nosed albatrosses and White-chinned petrels.
“The fact that we have done something about it … that gives me a great sense of joy and achievement,” said Titus Shaanika, the report’s co-author.