Presidential Migratory Bird Stewardship Award 2015

Lee Benaka and Eileen Sobeck were pleased to discover that a NOAA Fisheries nominated project received the 2015 Presidential Migratory Bird Stewardship AwardEileen Sobeck (Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries, middle) and Lee Benaka (Fishery Management Specialist, NOAA Fisheries Office of Science and Technology, right) accept the award from Jerome Ford (Assistant Director for Migratory Birds for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, left).

At the annual meeting of the Council for the Conservation of Migratory Birds on May 7, 2015, Lee Benaka and Eileen Sobeck were pleased to learn that a NOAA Fisheries-nominated project received the 2015 Presidential Migratory Bird Stewardship Award. This award recognizes a multiyear collaborative effort with partners (including Washington Sea Grant and Oregon State University) to encourage the use of streamer lines that reduce seabird bycatch. Ultimately, these practices will be framed into regulations for the U.S. West Coast groundfish longline vessels.

Alaska’s fishermen have already been using streamer lines successfully for years. Streamer lines dramatically reduce the number of seabirds caught in fishing gear; they have reduced albatross bycatch in Alaskan longline fisheries by 90%. They also reduce the amount of bait that seabirds snatch from hooks, which is a financial benefit to fishermen.

Streamer lines are relatively simple devices: a long piece of rope with strands of orange tubing suspended every 5 meters that hang down to the water’s surface. Fishermen deploy the streamer lines from the stern of longline fishing vessels along with the line with the baited hooks. Because the streamer lines are attached to a high point on the back deck of the vessel, they extend back to cover and protect the area where the baited hooks are sinking, preventing the seabirds from getting hooked or entangled.

NOAA Fisheries provided funding for complimentary streamer lines for West Coast longline vessels. Streamer lines are available through the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, Englund Marine stores, and LFS (Lummi Fishing Supply), a commercial fishing gear supplier in Seattle. The West Coast fleet received approximately 150 free streamer lines in 2014. NOAA Fisheries is currently funding projects with Washington Sea Grant and Oregon State University to improve current streamer lines and develop new streamer lines for smaller vessels.

NOAA Fisheries developed key partnerships with Ed Melvin and Troy Guy (Washington Sea Grant), and Rob Suryan and Amanda Gladics (Oregon State University). Through collaborative outreach efforts with the fishing industry, these partnerships have resulted in effective policies, based on scientific research, to reduce seabird mortality. In addition, the fishing industry has voluntarily adopted best practices to reduce seabird interactions. Because of combined efforts made by fishermen, scientists, and policy-makers, fewer seabirds are dying – a benefit for everyone.

Lee and Kim Rivera helped lead the development of this nomination, along with Mi Ae Kim (International Affairs), Steve Copps (West Coast Region), and Tom Good (Northwest Fisheries Science Center).

To learn more about this project, please click here.