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Trawl fisheries

a source of seabird mortalities worldwide

Trawl fisheries

Trawl fisheries are a cause of significant levels of seabird by-catch when birds (primarily albatrosses and petrels) collide with warp cables at the back of boats, and become entangled in nets during the later stages of hauling. Up to 40 species are thought to be affected, with tens of thousands estimated to die each year.


countless birds are estimated to die annually as a result of contact with trawl fisheries. Seabirds congregate at the back of trawling vessels to grab fish that are snagged in the nets or the ones that fall out during hauling. In this process, birds can get hit by the cables that pull the trawl nets, resulting in serious or even fatal death. Birds dipping or diving down to grab fish from the nets can get snagged and drown


One of the areas where accurate numbers have emerged is the Bengula Current (covering the Exclusive Economic Zones of South Africa, Namibia and Angola, and adjacent international waters). This area has had high levels of seabird by-catch in trawl fisheries. In 2005/06 it was estimated that 18,000 seabirds were killed in the South African hake trawl fishery, one of the first trawl fisheries in which this problem was identified.


It was estimated that 85% of birds were killed by the powerful warp cables that attach the trawl net to the fishing vessel, entangling particularly the long-winged albatrosses and dragging them under the water. The remaining 15% died entangled in nets during shooting and hauling.


Worryingly, there is very little information available concerning the amount of numbers of birds that die as a result of trawl net activities. Estimated numbers could be insufficient due to knowledge gaps.


SaveWave wants to make an effort in offering a solution that wil benefit both seabirds and fishermen. Hopefully, SaveWave’s new SeaBird Saver could be used to minimize sea bird fatalities in trawl fisheries soon.



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