Fisheries failing to safeguard seabirds
BirdLife has published the first review ranking the environmental performance of the world’s 19 inter-governmental Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs). The review identifies the RFMOs which are failing to prevent the slaughter of the world’s albatrosses in longline fisheries.
The RFMOs of chief concern are the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT), and the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT). These organisations are doing little or nothing to reduce the bycatch of seabirds, sharks and turtles in their fisheries, while at the same time many of their fish stocks have declined by more than 90 per cent.
The review, Regional Fisheries Management Organisations; their duties and performance in reducing incidental mortality of albatrosses, will be presented to delegates at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) five-day meeting in Rome starting today.
"RFMOs have a legal and moral obligation to force the fisheries they govern to reduce this wildlife toll" —Dr Cleo Small
"Regional Fisheries Management Organisations have a legal and moral obligation to force the fisheries they govern to reduce this wildlife toll," said BirdLife’s International Marine Policy Officer, Dr Cleo Small. "But they are only as strong as the political will of the countries that make them up. Maximising fish catches for export is still the top priority for many member countries, an approach which has left fish stocks and other marine species decimated with dire consequences for marine ecosystems and local fishing communities."
Populations of albatrosses, dolphins, sharks and turtles have plummeted, partly because many of the 19 RFMOs governing the world’s seas are ignoring international laws requiring action to safeguard marine wildlife and tackle pirate fishing.
More than 300,000 seabirds, including 100,000 albatrosses, and thousands of marine mammals and turtles are killed by both legal and illegal longline fishing fleets every year, with many RFMOs turning a blind eye to the problem.
In BirdLife’s review the RFMOs are measured against their duties, as required by international law. Just one of the organisations, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which governs the Southern Ocean, is taking comprehensive action to tackle bycatch.
"CCAMLR has shown what can be achieved by RFMOs. If other fisheries’ organisations did the same, threats to albatrosses, turtles, sharks and dolphins would be significantly reduced, pirate fishing eliminated and fish stocks sustainably managed. These organisations are a key part of saving albatrosses and ensuring sound stewardship of the high seas for future generations," said Dr Small.