NOAA Fisheries reports a mortality event of 22 spectacled eider as the result of striking a vessel in the hook-and-line groundfish fishery of the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI), according to James W. Balsiger, Administrator, Alaska Region, NOAA Fisheries. The event occurred on October 10, 2019 near 64° N and several miles westward of 170° W, just north of St. Lawrence Island in NOAA Fisheries reporting area 524 (see Figure 1). The vessel strike occurred in the early morning while the vessel was transiting between fishing locations. When the observer later came on duty they noticed several dead spectacled eider on the back of the vessel, along the wheelhouse, and outside the companionways. Voucher specimens were collected and retained for NOAA Fisheries. The spectacled eider are listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This is the first recorded take of spectacled eider by any fisheries operating in the BSAI or Gulf of Alaska Management Area (GOA).
The world population of the threatened spectacled eider is currently estimated at almost 370,000 individuals. The spectacled eider is protected in Alaska waters and throughout its range by the ESA.
The Alaska Regional Office, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are actively coordinating efforts and communicating in response to this mortality event and are complying to the fullest extent with ESA requirements to protect this species.
To assist in this coordinated effort, NOAA Fisheries suggests that vessels transiting and fishing in report areas 514 and 524 north of latitude 60º N during October through December use extra caution by avoiding areas of large seabird congregations. Spectacled eider annually migrate from their summer range (generally north of 65º N, or near Norton Sound) to areas south of St. Lawrence Island in the fall to overwinter. It is during this time that spectacled eider are most susceptible to interactions with fishing vessels.
While this mortality event did not occur during fishing activities, NOAA Fisheries reminds operators of hook-and-line vessels in the BSAI that they are required to employ multiple seabird avoidance measures, such as streamer lines, under fishery regulations pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act. NMFS encourages vessel operators to consider not deploying gear amidst congregations of threatened and endangered birds; if possible, move on to a location where spectacled eider are not present.
NOAA Fisheries also reminds vessel operators that any spectacled eider or other ESA-listed seabird found injured or dead on board, or caught by hook-and-line gear, should be retained and reported immediately to NOAA Fisheries or the NOAA Fisheries observer onboard.
This information bulletin provides information about regulations at 50 CFR 679.24(e) and 679.51(e)(1)(viii)(F).
Endangered Species Act – Threatened and Endangered Seabirds of Alaska