Seabird interactions with longlining operations for Dissostichus eleginoides at the South Sandwich Islands and South Georgia
During seven days of operations involving the setting and hauling of longlines to catch the toothfish Dissostichus eleginoides around the South Sandwich Islands, actual and potential interactions with seabirds were assessed. Bird numbers increased rapidly after dawn and large numbers of Cape, giant and storm petrels and smaller numbers of white-chinned petrels and black-browed albatrosses were present during day hauling operations. No incidental mortality was seen and only one bird was caught on a hook; nevertheless many species in these aggregations of birds are clearly potentially vulnerable to setting operations in daylight hours. Several species of the seabirds present presumably originated from South Georgia populations; however wandering and grey-headed albatrosses, whose populations are in serious decline at South Georgia, were rare; their vulnerability to longlining operations in the South Sandwich Islands may, therefore, be low. Quantitative data and observations of longline vessels fishing around South Georgia, however, indicate significant catch rates of albatrosses.