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Keywords:

  • Australian Fishery Zone;
  • flesh-footed shearwaters;
  • geolocation;
  • habitat utilization;
  • longline fishery;
  • Puffinus carneipes;
  • seabird bycatch

ABSTRACT  Incidental seabird mortality associated with bycatch during longline commercial fishing is a conservation concern. An initial step to estimating likelihood of seabird bycatch and conceiving conservation strategies is determining amount of overlap between foraging birds and commercial fishing effort, identifying oceanographic features associated with foraging birds, and quantifying dive characteristics. We tracked 24 adult flesh-footed shearwaters (Puffinus carneipes) breeding on Lord Howe Island located east of Australia during incubation and early and late chick-rearing periods from 6 January to 17 April 2005. At-sea foraging distribution of flesh-footed shearwaters was primarily confined within the jurisdictional Australian Fishing Zone. Foraging was strongly associated with sea-surface temperature >24°C. Spatial and temporal overlap of longline fishing with foraging shearwaters varied throughout the breeding season, but was greatest (63% overlap) during early chick-rearing. Mean maximum distance reached from the breeding colony during a foraging event was 804 km (SD = 280) from Lord Howe Island. Foraging behavior was strongly diurnal, with 91% of dives occurring during daylight, and most dives (77%) were <5 m. Given that longline fishing and flesh-footed shearwaters overlap substantially, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority should consider implementing additional regulations to further reduce bycatch. Conservation strategies such as setting longlines at nights may reduce flesh-footed shearwater bycatch.