Protection of Kittlitz's Murrelet on Kamchatka Peninsula


Kittlitz's Murrelet (Brachyramphus brevirostris) is a rare, poorly studied seabird species spread across Alaska and north-east Asia, included in the Red list of International Union for Conservation of Nature. In Russia this species breeding area covers significant parts of the Chukchi and Bering sea coast as well as the north of the sea of Okhotsk. The breeding areas of Kittlitz's Murrelet in the north-east Asia are not affected by economic activity, that's why the population develops under the influence of mainly natural factors. However the potential threat for murrelets can be posed by accidental catch at shore fishery of Pacific salmon. The proof is cases of death of this species as well as of Long-billed Murrelet (Brachyramphus perdix) and Ancient Murrelet (Synthliboramphus antiquus) in gill nets and pound nets in Chukotka, Kamchatka, north of the Okhotsk sea and Primorye. 


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Sea pound net. 
Photo by A.V. Maslov
South-west part of the Bering sea during summer serve as a zone of intensive salmon fishing that coincides with the breeding season of Kittlitz's Murrelet and the start of their post-nesting migrations. Thus it is necessary to estimate the potential danger of salmon shore fishery for the Kittlitz's Murrelet population. In 2010 BirdsRussia together with Asian branch of BirdLife International conducted such an evaluation. To achieve this goal we completed the following tasks: 

- to determine the correlations of spacial distribution of Kittlitz's Murrelet in coastal waters in summer; 

- to establish the features of coastal salmon fishing and distribution of fishing efforts; 

- to collect information about cases of Kittlitz's Murrelet getting caught up in fishing gear during salmon fishery and estimate the level of bird mortality when conducting this type of fishing. 

 

Research was conducted by a group of specialists (ornithologists and ichthyologists) from Kamchatka branch of Pacific Geographical Institute FEB RAS, Kamchatka Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography, Kamchatka State Technical University. 


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Seine net. Photo by E.G. Lobkov
We collected materials on accidental catch of murrelets in summer on 2010 at 16 fishing grounds from Karaginsky Gulf to south-eastern coast of Koryak highlands. Project participants regularly controlled fishing operations, studied the features of various fishing gear and recorded possible accidental catch of birds. Moreover, observers interviews more than 80 fishermen, residents of the nearby villages and crews of fishing vessels on the cases of seabirds getting caught in fishing gear. The main attention was paid to Kittlitz's and Long-billed Murrelet. To gather reliable information a specially prepared poster about the difference between these two species was used during the interviews. 


The obtained data showed that at the shore fishery in Kamchatka if accidental catch of Kittlitz's Murrelet in the fishing gear takes place, it is extremely rare and sporadic. In the fishing season of 2010 there was not a single case of death of these birds in fishing gear. The design features of seine makes the probability of birds getting into them extremely small. The greatest danger for birds are gill nets in which murrelets sometimes get caught into. However, the areas of salmon net fishing in the coastal zone practically do not overlap with the areas of summer concentrations of murrelets. In most cases they are spatially and biotopically separate which lowers the probability of accidental catch of murrelets in nets. In out opinion, the existing salmon coastal fishery system in Kamchatka and adjacent coast in the north-eastern part of Koryak highlands excludes the possibility of serious negative impact on population of Kittlitz's Murrelet inhabiting this area. 

 

Project manager — member of Kamchatka branch of BirdsRussia, PhD Yuri Borisovich Artukhin (artukhin @ mail.kamchatka.ru).

   

   
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