The week in bird news, December 5

Steller’s Eider caught in a gillnet, photo by Markus Vetemaa via BirdLife International

• 148 species of seabirds (including the threatened Steller’s Eider) are at risk of gillnet bycatch, which kills an estimated 400,000 birds every year according to a new report. But solutions exist, and some have been spearheaded here in California, which has implemented depth restrictions on gillnet use to reduce bycatch of Common Murres and other seabird species.

More via One Green Planet:

Gillnettting is a method of fishing used most often on commercial boats, where large nets are dragged across large areas of water, entangling everything in its path. A new report estimates 400,000 seabirds alone are killed by gillnets every year.

The report suggests that 148 different seabird species are at risk of being caught in gillnets. However, Ramunas Zydelis, co-author of the new report, told Mongabay, “Bird bycatch in gillnets is not type-specific and species-specific. Not all the nets are equally dangerous. Nets set deep in waters are less likely to catch birds than nets in shallow places or drifting at the surface.”

The birds at most risk tend to be ones that dive deep into the water for food — this even includes some penguins, especially those living off South America. Although it seems like not much can be done about this issue, there are many solutions to lower and prevent bycatches in fishing nets. It’s the planning and implementation that needs to be worked on. []

Click here for a guest op-ed to this blog on seabird bycatch by BirdLife’s Rory Crawford.

• The pilot captain of the Cosco Busan — a container ship that slammed into the Bay Bridge in 2007 causing over 53,000 gallons of bunker fuel to spill into the San Francisco Bay — will not get his mariner’s license back. A federal judge on Monday dismissed Capt. John Cota’s lawsuit against the Coast Guard, which last year found that Cota “did not meet the medical standards and the professional qualifications requirements for renewal.”

More than 1,000 oiled birds were treated at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center following the spill; 421 were successfully released back into the wild. [Marin Independent Journal]

• Brutally cold storms slamming the Western Alaska coast have resulted in the deaths of many seabirds. [Alaska Dispatch]

• Humpback Whales off northern Vancouver Island use Rhinoceros Auklets and Common Murres to create “bait balls” ofbirdswithbad herring before the marine mammals gobble them whole. [Vancouver Sun]

• The size of the fleshy red “badge” on the heads of New Zealand’s Pukeko (pictured right) is indicative of its social status — “and [it] apparently grows and shrinks in keeping with the bird’s standing in its social group,” reports. [; photo via Wikimedia Commons]

• Ever wonder how a bird can sleep while clutching a branch and not fall off? Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic offers one theory. [The Atlantic]

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