Reducing Seabird Bycatch Through Market Forces

A Laysan Albatross by Bill Hubick


The Challenge

At the root of the seabird bycatch problem is demand for fish. One way to encourage fishermen to reduce their seabird bycatch is through increasing demand for sustainably-harvested seafood. Educating the public en masse and persuading them to change their buying habits is difficult, but large, commercial buyers that support sustainable sourcing of seafood can have significant influence over the fisheries, and can encourage them to adopt seabird-friendly practices. ABC’s challenge is to find ways to communicate with and inform commercial buyers about fisheries with seabird bycatch problems versus those that are harvesting seafood without damage to seabird populations, and to encourage the buyers to source their seafood from the best ones.


ABC Conservation Framework

This program fits into two areas of ABC's conservation Framework: Eliminating Threats, and, given the endangered status of most albatross species, Safeguarding the Rarest
pyramid icon - rarest pyramid icon threats


Primary Birds Impacted

Most species of seabirds can be affected by fisheries, but of special concern are all species of albatrosses, penguins, and giant-petrels, threatened species or shearwaters and petrels, Northern Fulmars, and alcids (auks, puffins, murres, etc.).



ABC is working with partners to incorporate seabird bycatch as an additional criterion in sustainable harvest programs, and to educate them about effective options to reduce seabird bycatch in fisheries. Information on which fisheries are sustainable and which are not can be incorporated as well into fishery certification systems, such as the one run by the Marine Stewardship Council, or provided directly to the buyer. Buyers who select food from fisheries that minimize bird bycatch can market an environmentally friendly product to their customers, reward the fisheries that are sustainable harvesters, and encourage fisheries that are not sustainable to improve their practices.

ABC Results

ABC Results Button

An analysis of fisheries certified or in assessment by the Marine Stewardship Council showed that fisheries in the MSC program are generally doing well with regard to seabird bycatch. ABC wishes to thank the Walton Family Foundation for support of this project.

ABC Results Button

Analysis of seabird bycatch in the largest fisheries bringing seafood to US tables shows that some are doing well, with low seabird bycatch, while others are just beginning to address seabird bycatch problems.

ABC Results Button ABC supported efforts to educate consumers about the truth behind Chilean seabass (properly called Patagonian toothfish), which was caught by pirate fisheries that used no seabird bycatch mitigation, and then smuggled into the U.S.


What Next?

What Next Button Many fisheries do not meet all the criteria required to be certified as sustainable. So as to influence these sources of seabird mortality, ABC will work with partners to have seabird bycatch information incorporated in evaluations of non-certified fisheries and into Fishery Improvement Programs.