The RSPB has been working with salmon netsmen in Filey Bay, Yorkshire, to tackle seabird bycatch in their fishery. I’m pleased to present a guest blog by Rory Crawford from the BirdLife International Marine Programme, who introduces (and stars in!) a film showcasing this work and the stunning wildlife of our Bempton Cliffs reserve.
Some of you will be familiar with our work in Filey Bay, Yorkshire, including that we hired our first ever seasonal member of staff to liaise directly with local fishermen on seabird bycatch. The Filey salmon fishery is one of the few gillnet fisheries in the world where technical modifications to the fishing gear have been adopted to try and reduce seabird bycatch. This is of particular interest to me, as we are currently trying to find ways to reduce the deaths accidentally caused by this type of fishing – estimated to stand at 400,000 seabirds annually.
A quick internet search will uncover that relationships haven’t always been so friendly in Filey – but thanks to open minds from fishermen, the RSPB’s regional staff and the Environment Agency, a good working relationship has been established to try and better understand seabird bycatch and minimise it. This collaborative approach is the beating heart of our Albatross Task Force (ATF), working in South America and southern Africa, and our emerging work in Filey is definitely in this spirit of direct fisheries engagement! Indeed, we are making headway elsewhere, with BirdLife Europe recently launching the Seabird Task Force, which has gillnet-specific element working with fishermen in Lithuania.
While we’re still some way from finding a definitive answer to the gillnet bycatch problem, the building blocks of collaboration with fishermen are being established. Fishermen have a strong understanding of their gear, how it works, and how it might be tweaked to solve problems – they need to be closely involved in finding mitigation measures to prevent seabird bycatch. Rex Harrison, one of the Filey netsmen, has helped spearhead the interventions that are thought to have played a key role in bringing down the levels of bycatch in Filey Bay in recent years. I joined Rex on a trip to our Bempton Cliffs reserve (just round the corner from Filey) to take in some of this wildlife spectacle on his doorstep and talk a bit about collaboration and saving seabirds.
Luckily, someone was there to catch it all on camera – so sit back and enjoy this short film, showcasing one of our finest nature reserves and some of the joint efforts being made to protect the seabirds it hosts.