Drowned seabirds in nets collected as bycatch

During 2007-2009, Snæfellsnes Research Centre, in collaboration with The Icelandic Institute of Natural History, The Biology institute of University of Iceland, and the University of East Anglia collaborated on research on the ecology of the common eider population: the influence of climate changes an quality of habitat on changes in population and the stability of utilization.

Supplementing this research, the Snæfellsnes Research Centre began collecting seabirds that drown in lumpfish nets that are landed in Stykkishólmur. This project is ongoing since the summer of 2007.

Birds that are collected are marked with date and place of capture, dissected and tissues collected along with the digestive tracts. These birds give indices regarding the state and food choice of seabirds each year. They can also be used for various researches, such as toxin ecology and genetics. Finally it is worth mentioning that around 20 marked birds were recovered via this project in the summers of 2007 and 2008.

In the spring of 2009, doctoral candidate Þórður Örn Kristjánsson began  evaluating the food choice of the common eider through dissections on net drowned birds that were collected 2007-2010, but little information was available on the food habits of the common eider in Breiðafjörður Bay. The findings were published in Polar Biology in January 2013. The paper was co-authored by Jón Einar Jónsson and Jörundur Svavarsson.

The bycatch birds are also used for teaching. For example, the black guillemot has been used for the bird dissection in Vertebrate Zoology. The by-catch birds are also dissected to show visitors at events like the Visindavaka.  Pictured below, Árni Ásgeirsson shows a class in Ecology from Fjölbrautaskóli Snæfellinga the insides of two common eiders.

 

arni-asgeirsson-dissects

 

In springs of 2010, Bob Dusek of the USGS National Wildlife Health Center visited and got swab samples from common eiders, cormorants and black guillemots, looking for non-pathogenic influenza viruses and antibodies.  He also visited the Rif Eider colony and collected swab samples from banded common eider females. Bob returned to Rif in 2012 for another set of such samples, and the collaboration with Bob will continue in the coming years.

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