Nearly 100 sea birds found dead on Albany beaches

Albany Advertiser

More than 80 sea birds have washed up dead on Albany beaches, according to the Conservation Council of WA.

The flesh-footed shearwaters were found washed up dead on Goode and Fisheries Beech on the western side of King George Sound, south of Albany.

Conservation Council of WA Nic Dunlop said the kills may be caused by purse-seine fishing.

“The timing of this Shearwater kill is unusually early, but in every other respect fitted the now familiar pattern of these seabirds being drowned in the purse-seine nets used by the Albany-based South Coast Purse-seine Fishery,” Dr Dunlop said.

“The Flesh-footed Shearwater is a species that has recently shown a dramatic decline in all three of its populations. The species is known to be particularly susceptible as bycatch in a variety of commercial fisheries, to the ingestion of plastics, and to changes in marine climate.

Losing another eighty adult shearwaters from the local breeding population - in addition to around seventy earlier in the year - is a serious conservation issue.

“CCWA has attempted to work cooperatively with the Department of Fisheries to eliminate this problem from the fishery for more than a decade. There was an early reduction in bycatch from thousands to hundreds of individuals but no further progress since then.”

But WA Fishing Industry Council CEO John Harrison has denied that activities by the Albany-based South Coast Purse-seine Fishery are connected to the bird's deaths.

"The recent loss of shearwaters in the Albany region is concerning but WAFIC (based on advice from fishers) does not believe it is linked to purse seine fishing," Mr Harrison says.

"The south coast purse seine fishery has been committed to reducing impacts on the Flesh Footed Shearwater and operators have not observed or reported any recent bird mortalities."

A spokeswoman with DBCA said the Parks and Wildlife Service had collected the seabirds earlier this week.

"Necropsies on the birds will be undertaken by the University of Western Australia to try and determine the cause of death,” the spokeswoman says.

Shearwater are long-lived birds that survive to 40 years of age.

They often fish close to shore when feeding their young and the loss of a large number of adults would also affect juvenile birds.

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