Government/Industry Partnership Helps Small Fishing Vessels Meet Federal and State Regulations

June 09, 2005 - 11:30 a.m.

Notice of a fishery management action.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) takes note of a media advisory from the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program that 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, according to James W. Balsiger, Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS.

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 (i.e. hook-and-line gear) 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, NMFS 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, 4,000 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.

Visit http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/protectedresources/seabirds/streamers.htm for a list of locations where free streamers can be picked up and to order streamers, or call Geana Tyler, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, at 503-595-3100. 

For additional information, contact:

Sunny Rice, Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, Petersburg, 907-772-3381 or fnar@uaf.edu Greg Balogh, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, 907-271-2778 or greg_balogh@fws.gov Kim Rivera, NMFS, Juneau, 907-586-7424 or Kim.Rivera@noaa.gov

This information bulletin only provides notice of a seabird avoidance program. For the purposes of complying with seabird avoidance regulations, you are advised to see the actual text in the Code of Federal Regulations.

Last updated by Alaska Regional Office on February 11, 2019