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Government/industry partnership helps small fishing vessels meet federal and state seabird regulations


May 26, 2005

Petersburg, Alaska - Small-boat longline fishermen now have several free options for keeping seabirds off their baited hooks. Through a cooperative effort of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC), and Alaska longline fishermen, four types of streamer lines are now available to Alaska's diverse longline fleet free of charge.

Streamer lines are towed behind fishing vessels to deter birds from attacking sinking bait. The main line is attached high on the fishing vessel at one end, and tied to a drag-creating device at the other end, creating a suspended line behind the vessel. Hanging from this main line are a series of brightly colored streamers that wiggle in response to wind and vessel movement. The movement of the streamers frightens seabirds away from the bait that is sinking on the longline behind the vessel. Research done by the University of Washington Sea Grant Program has shown that streamer lines, when properly deployed, can reduce seabird bycatch in longline operations at rates approaching 100 percent.

In 2004, the NOAA Fisheries Service revised regulations requiring longline vessels to use streamer lines and other seabird avoidance devices. These regulations were created to protect endangered short-tailed albatross and other seabirds from being caught on sinking longline hooks. In 2000, USFWS, PSMFC, and Washington Sea Grant created streamer lines made of 3/8" blue steel poly for free distribution to fishermen. Since then, 4000 of these lines have been given away. The current project involves adapting that original design for a wider variety of longline vessel types. The new lines are constructed of lighter, 3/16" poly.

"Small boats can have a hard time with the original streamers made of 3/8" line because they generally have shorter masts than the larger boats and less room and manpower to handle the heavy line and weights of these streamers," explains Mark Lundsten, a former Alaska longliner and the designer of the lighter lines. "The simplest way to solve these problems is to use a lighter, 3/16" line. This line attains the proper amount of loft more easily - mast height can be lower, setting speed can be slower, and the drag on the end of the line needs to be less. It also is easier to store and to deploy on a smaller deck."

Longline fishermen can get their free streamer lines in person or request them electronically. There are distribution points in Dutch Harbor, Kodiak, Seward, Homer, Cordova, Yakutat, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg, Ketchikan, Craig, and Seattle.


On the web:

List of locations where free steamers can be picked up or call Geana Tyler, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, at 503-595-3100.


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