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Two Boys, a longliner at work.  She is the sister ship of Ryoei, which was the vessel I sailed on. Two Boys, a longliner at work. She is the sister ship of Ryoei, which was the vessel I sailed on.

 

Longline fishing is a commercial fishing technique in which a long line (or main line) is baited with multiple hooks. Each hook is attached at intervals by shorter branch lines called gangions (or snoods).  A snood is a short length of line, attached to the main line using a clip or swivel, with the hook at the other end. The lines are then hand-baited and cast out to sea and, depending on the target species, anchored to the sea floor (demersal longlining) or left to drift (pelagic longlining). Demersal longline fishing is effective in catching ground fish such as sable, cod or halibut whereas it is more common to catch swordfish or tuna with pelagic longlining.

Longlines vary in their size and length - a small operator might use as few as 25 hooks per line but most commercial boats utilising several thousand hooks across many miles of line.

Radio beacons, along with marker buoys, are used to help the crew to locate the lines they have laid. The buoys are also used to fix the depth at which the lines are floated to vary the species of fish being targeted as is the choice of bait. Some commercial fishermen also use luminescent sticks attached to the lead lines both to make the bait more attractive but also to lure smaller fish upon which the target species prey.

Without careful management, longline fisheries can have unintended interactions with non-target fish, seabirds, and other marine life. It is this issue that is key for seabird conservation and drives the work of the Albatross Task Force.

 

The story of time spent on Ryoei is part of the Troubled Waters story.  See Books page for information on obtaining a copy.The story of time spent on Ryoei is part of the Troubled Waters story. See Books page for information on obtaining a copy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Troubled Waters
Pelagic expedition aboard a longline fishing vessel off the coast of South Africa  - October 2011

I travelled to South Africa about the same time last year with a plan (long in the making and negotiating) to travel 160 miles out into the Indian Ocean  / extreme eastern Atlantic on board a longline fishing boat.  The aim was to get to the heart of the Troubled Waters story and witness the collision between seabirds and fishermen on the open ocean.

A trawler at sea, showing the tori lines which keep the mass of scavenging birds away from the trawl cables and dangers of a surfacing netA trawler at sea, showing the tori lines which keep the mass of scavenging birds away from the trawl cables and dangers of a surfacing net

The stern of a demersal trawler, alongside at Richards Bay, South Africa.The stern of a demersal trawler, alongside at Richards Bay, South Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a variety of complex reasons (generator failure, accreditation certificate held-up, etc) the plan failed.  With thanks to the Birdlife office in South Africa a trip on board a trawler from Cape Town was hastily arranged.  It proved to be as dramatic and as important as anything I had anticipated and researched.  Nevertheless, it was felt that as the longline element was so important to the seabird and albatross story, there should be another attempt to join the boat.  So, with slightly different plan I went to South Africa in mid-October.

This time everything fell into place and I had an extraordinary and creative adventure.  That story is currently being written and the illustrative material prepared and in due course some will be published and shown here - but most of the material is now focused on the book and exhibition launch in London in November 2012.

 

Activity on deck through the dayActivity on deck through the day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shy albatross and white-chinned petrel scrabbling for offal thrown overboard.Shy albatross and white-chinned petrel scrabbling for offal thrown overboard.

The first stage of processing a swordfish - cut off its head!The first stage of processing a swordfish - cut off its head!

 

White-chinned petrels scavenging offal around the vessel.White-chinned petrels scavenging offal around the vessel.

At sea surrounded by petrels.At sea surrounded by petrels.