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Driftnets and Russia: Ban Starts 2016

Jul 15, 2015 01:57 PM EDT
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Russia is banning large-scale driftnet fishing--the type of draped fishing net that you might picture when you hear the words "fishing net." These driftnets are a type of gillnet: Nearly invisible and measuring up to a whopping 19 miles in length, they catch fish by the gills--but also ensnare about 400,000 seabirds every year. The ban will include both domestic and Japanese driftnet fishing in Russia's economic zone, and comes into force on January 1, 2016, a release said.

Doing so will help protect birds, salmon and porpoises in the Russian Far East, as noted by Sergey Korostelev, with WWF Kamchatka Bering Sea Ecoregional Office, in a release.

Animals that will be saved by increased protection could include the seabirds Tufted Puffin Fratercula cirrhata, Short-tailed Shearwater Ardenna tenuirostris and Thick-billed Murre Uria lomvia--and marine mammals including the Dall's Porpoise, Ribbon Seals and Pacific White-sided Dolphin, a release noted.

Although banned on the high seas in 1991, their use remains legal within a nation's waters, alongside other types of gillnet.

"The banning of these huge nets in Russian waters is fantastic for an array of wildlife in the northwest Pacific and we support the closure of a fishery with such severe collateral damage to marine wildlife," said Cleo Small, with the NGO BirdLife, in a release. "However, there are still many small-scale gillnet fisheries of immense social and local importance, with lower but still very significant impacts on seabirds...We will continue to work with fishermen to find vital technical solutions in smaller-scale gillnet fisheries around the world."

Follow Catherine at @TreesWhales

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