Seabird population study getting international attention

New work by a researcher examines the effects of fishing gear on Newfoundland and Labrador seabird populations is garnering international attention.

MUN researcher's work published in prestigious scientific journals

A new Memorial University study reinforces the need to protect some Newfoundland and Labrador seabirds from fishing gear. (CBC)

New work by a Memorial University researcher that examines the effects of fishing gear on Newfoundland and Labrador seabird populations is garnering international attention.

In the study, researcher Paul Regular shows that diving seabird numbers are flourishing with less fishing gear in the water.

He estimates that before the cod moratorium, fishing gear killed tens of thousands of seabirds annually.

"Diving seabirds such as your common murres, your Atlantic puffins, your northern gannet — they weren't getting bycaught in the nets anymore," said Regular.

"It was really good for them."

Tour boat operator Joe O'Brien is not surprised by the new findings. (CBC)

Regular said new gear types can help strike a balance between fishing and birdlife.

"There are gear types like cod pots that could be used more regularly, [types] that the diving seabirds are at a lower risk to get caught up [in] and drown."

Tour boat operator Joe O'Brien, who was a fisherman before the moratorium, said this comes as no surprise to him.

"There is no mortality to fishing gear ... so except for predators and scavengers in the ocean and in the environment, the bird populations are as much as the land can stand," O'Brien said.

Regular said there are other measures that could also be taken, such as limiting fishing at times critical to seabird survival.

The study continues to receive significant international attention. It has been featured in publications such as Nature and Scientific American.