Sunday, 8 July 2012

Seabird mortality- long lines of woe :(

We crossed paths with a blue fishing boat- a longliner, a few days ago. She was about 28 metres overall length and believed to be of Brazilian origin. Not sure how she gets away with fishing in Surinamese waters- maybe Suriname does not have fisheries patrol vessels or a navy? Anyway, during daylight observations she was seen distantly-hauling in  surface long lines, presumably set the previous day/night for tuna and tuna- like fish species. Then she was gone- no visual contact, no radar contact. Then the woe started- a bird corpse floating on the sea surface- on its' back, the stomach bloated by the expanding gases, gleaming white in the tropical sun. I was pretty sure it was a great shearwater. Then I spotted another 30 minutes later, followed by two birds a short while later- all dark brown/white, belly-up individuals. Shearwaters are not so attractive when viewed this way.

this corpse is probably a day or so old and is being eaten by fish
This has gone on for a few days now with at least 40 corpses observed- some of the bodies more waterlogged and broken by wave action than others, some partially eaten by fish. Of course, rather worryingly this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg as I am only seeing the corpses of birds that lie fairly close to the survey path of my own vessel. Just how many dead seabirds are out there is anyones' guess! Of course I could not prove that the corpses were linked to long-line fishing but I did manage a poor shot of a great shearwater attached to a long-line snood- the relatively thin line that connects the baited hook to the main strain-bearing long line. Rather a sad moment to see this lovely seabird hooked or tangled in a length of fishing line and struggling to fly across the sea with little of its' usual grace and beauty. Presumably without its' usual ability to fly and forage it will suffer a lingering death as opposed to one of drowning relatively quickly thanks to the line breaking free- I really can't say which is worse. Not one of my better days at sea. :(

great shearwater struggling with an estimated 4-5 metres of fishing line attached

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