Seabirds and Longlines

A Black-browed Albatross hooked by a longline, by Fabio Olmos

A Black-browed Albatross hooked by a longline, by Fabio Olmos


The Challenge

With demand for large ocean fish at an all-time high, hundreds of thousands of albatrosses and other seabirds are killed each year by the fleets of longline fishing vessels that crisscross the world’s oceans. The longliners set fishing lines that can reach up to 60 miles long, carrying as many as 30,000 hooks baited to catch tuna, swordfish, cod, halibut, Patagonian toothfish (Chilean sea bass), and other fish. While the longlines are being set behind the fishing boats, albatrosses and other seabirds grab the bait and become impaled on the barbed hooks, either in their bills, bodies, or wings. Dragged under the surface, the birds are unable to free themselves and drown.


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

Worldwide, at least 64 seabird species are known to have been killed in longline fisheries, 23 species of which are threatened. These include: Black-footed Albatross, Campbell Albatross, Wandering Albatross, Tristan, Albatross, Antipodean Albatross, Southern Royal Albatross, Northern Royal Albatross, Amsterdam Albatross, Laysan Albatross, Short-t ailed Albatross, Waved Albatross, Macaroni Penguin, White-chinned Petrel, Spectacled Petrel, Black Petrel, Westland Petrel, Southern Giant Petrel, Cape Gannet



Simple and inexpensive changes in fishing practices will protect the world’s albatrosses and petrels from severe population declines and eventual extinction.


Bird-scaring or “tori” lines have been shown to virtually eliminate seabird mortality caused by longlines. The lines are mounted on poles at the stern of the boat. Colored streamers attached to the lines flap erratically in the wind above the area where the bait enters the water, scaring the birds away until the bait sinks out of their reach.

Other solutions include changing the weighting on the lines so they sink faster out of reach of the diving birds; setting lines at night when birds are less active; side setting lines; using underwater chutes to set lines; and dyeing bait blue to make it less attractive to birds. Changing how boats dump offal and fish waste overboard can help reduce bird deaths too. The exact solutions a fishery employs depends on where it fishes and the birds that are at risk.


Consumers can help reduce seabird bycatch through market forces.

ABC Results

ABC Results Button

American Bird Conservancy has been at the forefront of world efforts to prevent the needless deaths of seabirds on longlines, and continues to press regulators, industry, and the public toward greater appreciation of the scope and seriousness of the problem, and to spur them into action.

ABC Results Button ABC has published a comprehensive report in English, Spanish, and Chinese, detailing the extent of seabird bycatch worldwide, and how it can best be solved.
ABC Results Button

ABC’s work to identify and reduce bycatch of the Waved Albatross in Ecuador and Peru has advanced significantly. ABC and its partners are collecting the first observer data on the artisanal fleets of southern Ecuador. In the last year—and for the first time—we have documented significant bycatch of Waved Albatross in these fisheries and, having pinpointed the problem, are developing bycatch reduction strategy with the fishermen and the Ecuadorian government.


What Next?

What Next Button

ABC will continue to advocate for stringent regulations, both domestically and internationally, to better protect seabirds from longline fishing.

What Next Button

ABC continues to push for U.S. accession to the Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP). Although the United States is already in compliance with this international treaty, signing it would allow us to play a greater role in developing international standards for interaction between marine birds and fisheries.

What Next Button

ABC is working with other nations to adopt effective National Plans of Action that protect seabirds, including the use of avoidance measures on longline vessels.

Take Action

Fishermen can find out which techniques can help them avoid killing seabirds in their fishery in the ABC report, Longline Fishing: A Global Catastrophe for Seabirds.


Press the Administration and Congress to get the U.S. to sign ACAP, the international treaty that protects albatrosses and petrels.


Don’t purchase Patagonian toothfish (Chilean sea bass) that may have been caught by pirate longliners. Read The Truth About Chilean Sea Bass.


Press the Administration and Congress to consider import sanctions on all fish caught by longlining nations that do not use effective seabird avoidance measures.