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Fishermen of South America’s Atlantic coast mutilate seabirds

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Frigatebird flying off the coast of Brazil

There is a disturbing story in The Times newspaper today, Wednesday 18th 2020, in which it is reported that fishermen off South America’s Atlantic coast are abusing seabirds in various ways because they consider them pests or as an act of retribution against them.

I won’t publish the picture on this page, which is published in The Times newspaper, of an albatross with its beak severely mutilated which must have lead to the bird dying of starvation, because it is too distressing. But, as mentioned, it is believed that fishermen are thought to be killing or injuring seabirds rather than dealing with them humanely because it takes too long and is too troublesome.

Frigatebird flying off the coast of Brazil

Frigatebird flying off the coast of Brazil. Photo in the public domain.

Alex Bond, Senior Curator in charge of birds at the Natural History Museum in London, said, “It appears to be a very specific thing that fishermen in this region are doing. It’s clear that some operators are literally just taking a blading cutting the bill off to more expeditiously unhook the bird and then tossing the bird overboard”.

The reports first emerged of fishermen off the coast of southern Brazil hitting seabirds with metal objects attached to a pole and line to stop the birds taking bait from hooks. The birds have also been mutilated through overly aggressive handling by fishermen as they were removed from fishing lines.

The scientist at the Natural History Museum are looking for documentary evidence to improve their records of this sort of an animal abuse. The practice of cutting the bills of birds – a most horrendous form of animal cruelty – has been documented in waters off Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. Records from those countries include 46 acts of seabird bill mutilation. Seventeen of the birds died from their injuries.

The study is published in Biological Conservation. There is a call for urgent action internationally to address this inhumane treatment.

Comment: my observations inform me that fishermen, in general, aggressively pursue their profession with a disregard for animal welfare. They will do anything to protect their livelihoods which I understand fully. However, their behaviour should not include animal abuse of any kind. Fishing, per se, is inherently cruel because fish can feel pain. And overfishing is rampant across the planet. It’s out of control because the human population is also out of control. I see little hope of real improvements in terms of conservation and animal welfare for the foreseeable future if at all.