According to a report published by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), unintended bycatch in fishing nets along the Norwegian coast is estimated to kill between 4 000 and 40 000 seabirds annually, and fulmars and common guillemot are among the species that are caught most often.

Internationally, unintended bycatch of seabirds in fishing nets and lines has received attention for many years. The conflict between albatrosses and long line fisheries in the southern hemisphere has been the most focus, but Norwegian authorities are now also addressing this problem. Even though bycatch is not among the main causes of decline in our seabird populations, it is important to identify effects of this mortality factor. In a special project, researchers at NINA have studied bycatch in the net and longline fisheries along the Norwegian coast between 2008 and 2015, and have published some of their findings.

Read the report (in Norwegian only)

The extent of bycatch is affected by several factors, such as fishing effort, methods and regulations, the density, number and condition of birds, and climate, wind and weather. Data covering the period from 2006 to 2014 indicate that 4 000 – 40 000 seabirds are killed in Norwegian fishing nets annually. Common guillemots and Northern fulmars are the dominating seabird species caught, and the risk of bycatch is increased dramatically if the nets are set less than 50 meters below the surface, especially along the northernmost parts of the coast. Between 200 and 600 seabirds were estimated killed in the longline fishery for Greenland halibut, and most were fulmars. The bycatch project at NINA is the first of its kind in Norway, and the results underline that using swivel hooks instead of traditional hooks is one of the most important preventive measures that can be taken with regard to bycatch. Minimum depths for nets and restriction of fishing areas should also be considered.

Contact person: Tycho Anker-Nilssen, NINA

This Black guillemot drowned in a net that was intended to catch lumpfish.
Photo: Kirstin Fangel, NINA