11 Feb 2016

Endangered seabirds to get United States boost?

Implementing ACAP is a golden opportunity for the United States to improve wildlife conservation (image: F Peppes)
By James Lowen

Globally threatened seabirds have been given a boost by a proposed new law in the United States. Congressman Alan Lowenthal has introduced legislation that would enable U.S. federal agencies to comply with an international agreement that aims to reduce seabird deaths by longline fishing and other threats. Conservationists have welcomed the initiative.

If the new Act is agreed, the U.S. will become the 14th country to sign the international Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP). This agreement seeks to conserve albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters by coordinating international activity to reduce known threats to their populations. ACAP came into force in February 2004 and currently covers 31 species, 21 of which are globally threatened.

The U.S. has been active in reducing fisheries bycatch but has yet to sign up to ACAP despite efforts by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The proposed legislation, says Congressman Lowenthal, "would authorise the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to implement fisheries conservation measures, increase international fisheries enforcement, restore habitat, reduce non-native species, develop educational programs, and cooperate internationally”.

Implementing ACAP, adds Congressman Lowenthal, is "a golden opportunity for the United States to improve wildlife conservation not just here at home, but around the world, by urging other nations to adopt strong conservation standards”.

Conservationists welcomed Congressman Lowenthal's leadership. David Yarnold, President and CEO of National Audubon Society, BirdLife Partner in the United States, commented that "it’s time to protect these incredible birds from such needless deaths. This legislation makes sense for birds and makes sense for people. We call on members of Congress to get it across the finish line.”

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BirdLife International is an observer organisation to ACAP, playing an active role on all ACAP working groups. Cleo Small, head of BirdLife's Marine Programme, will coordinate BirdLife input to the ninth meeting of ACAP’s Advisory Committee, to be held in Chile during May this year.