Whale theft of fish from longline fisheries
Straley, Jan Department of Biology, University of Alaska Southeast, Sitka, Alaska.
- Sablefish fishery
- Depredation studies
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) remove fish from longline fishing gear. This behavior is called depredation. Whales will directly approach a vessel, sometimes after following it for days and deftly remove the catch from a longline (Fig. 1). In 2003, Gulf of Alaska (GOA) fishermen, looking for solutions to minimize their economic loss and reduce the potential entanglement of sperm whales in their gear, contacted scientists and formed the Southeast Alaska Sperm Whale Avoidance Project (SEASWAP). This unusual mix of scientists, fishermen, and managers have come together to understand the whale theft problem and find solutions to minimize interactions. The study area is focused along the eastern side of the GOA, where the community of Sitka, Alaska, is located (Fig. 2). Sitka is conveniently close to the shelf break, allowing relatively easy access to where sperm whales are waiting for fishermen to retrieve their catch.
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