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Seabird Bycatch Investigations

Studies of Seabirds Accidentally Killed in the Alaska and Hawai‘i Fisheries

Seabirds are examined.

Seabirds are examined in Santa Cruz, CA for health, diet, and plastic ingestion metrics.

Seabird bycatch carcasses from fishery operations provide valuable sources of population-level information on demographics, distribution patterns, food habits, and pollution loads. In collaboration with NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center and the Pacific Islands Regional Office, we conduct necropsies, collect samples, and analyze data to inform the conservation of several migratory species in the North Pacific.

  1. Maximize scientific sampling from seabird species incidentally caught in U.S. commercial fisheries
  2. Support Oikonos Black-footed and Laysan Albatross Conservation projects via investigations of population-level impacts of U.S. longline fisheries on these species
  3. Work within the Biological Indicators of Ocean Plastic Pollution Network (BioPs) to improve ocean health by using seabirds as biological samplers of plastic litter at sea
  4. Encourage future stewardship of ocean ecosystems through the involvement of students and community volunteers


Seabirds face increasing threats and declining populations globally. Of the 22 albatross species, 19 are classified as threatened. Members of the tubenose family (Procellaridae) face a wide diversity of threats including incidental takes by fisheries, plastics, contaminates, and climate change. Procellarid life history traits, such as delayed maturity, great longevity, and low fecundity (1 egg per year), make their populations especially vulnerable to threats, particularly those that may target adults.

Oikonos works with NOAA’s observer programs in U.S. longline fisheries to maximize the scientific value of birds caught incidentally. Examinations can inform conservation policies by documenting patterns of fisheries-associated mortalities, specifically age or sex-related differences. Such examinations can also give insight into plastic and contaminants loads, life-history traits, and seabird ecology.


NOAA North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program in Alaska

NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center
Pacific Islands Region Observer Program in Hawai‘i

Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center

Hawaii Pacific University

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

University of California Santa Cruz

Michigan State University

University of New Mexico

Anonymous Foundation


    • NOAA Fisheries
    • Hawai‘i and Alaska Fishers
    • Private Donors

Publications & Reports

Preliminary Results on the Diet of Laysan Albatross and the Use of Fisheries By-caught Marine Birds in Investigations of Natural Feeding Strategy

Walker W., Fitzgerald S. Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NMFS, NOAA 2012

Seabird Bycatch in Alaska Demersal Longline Fishery Trials: A Demographic Study

Phillips, E.M., Nevins, H.M., Hatch, S.A., Ramey, A.M., Miller, M.A. & Harvey, J.T. 2010. Marine Ornithology 38: 111–117.

Demographics of Alabatrosses Caught as Bycatch in Hawaiian (2010-2012) and Alaskan Longline Fisheries (2007, 2009-2011)

Beck, J., Hester, M., Nevins, H., Donnelly-Greenan, E., and S. Fitzgerald. 2013. Poster presentation, Pacific Seabird Group, Portland Oregon, Feb. 2013.


Dead Seabirds Do Tell Tales: How Fishery Observers Help Provide Data for Seabird Management


Jessie Beck and Michelle Hester, Co-PIs