What’s the catch with lumpsuckers? A North Atlantic study of seabird bycatch in lumpsucker gillnet fisheries
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Worldwide, incidental bycatch in fisheries is a conservation threat to many seabird species. Although knowledge on bycatch of seabirds has increased in the last decade, most stems from longline fisheries and the impacts of coastal gillnet fisheries are poorly understood. Gillnet fishing for North Atlantic lumpsucker (Cyclopterus lumpus) is one such fishery. We collated and synthesized the available information on seabird bycatch in lumpsucker gillnet fisheries across the entire geographical range to estimate and infer the magnitude of their impact on the affected seabird populations. Most birds killed were diving ducks, cormorants and auks, and each year locally high numbers of seabirds were taken as bycatch. We found large differences in bycatch rates among countries. The estimated mean bycatch in Iceland was 2.43 birds/trip, while the estimates in Norway was 0.44 and 0.39 birds/trip, respectively. The large disparities between estimates might reflect large spatial differences in bycatch rates, but could partly also arise due to distinctions in data recorded by onboard inspectors (Iceland), selfadministered registration (Norway) and direct observations by cameras (Denmark). We show that lumpsucker gillnet fisheries might pose a significant risk to some populations of diving seabirds. However, a distinct data deficiency on seabird bycatch in terms of spatio-temporal coverage and the age and origins of the birds killed, limited our abilities to fully assess the extent and population consequences of the bycatch. Our results highlight the need for a joint effort among countries to standardize monitoring methods to better document the impact of these fisheries on seabirds.