Pacific seabird mitigation measures “a step in the right direction”
A meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), one of the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) controlling fishing in international waters, has passed new measures to prevent the accidental killing of seabirds by longline fishing vessels in the Pacific.
The WCPFC is vital to the conservation of albatrosses; 19 of the world’s 21 species are threatened with extinction and nearly half (46%) of albatrosses’ global distribution is within WCPFC waters.
Dr Cleo Small, who represented BirdLife at the meeting in Apia, Samoa, as an observer, described the measures as: “a step in the right direction, although the outcome is partly a compromise following some difficult negotiations.”
The WCPFC has become the first tuna commission to make the use of at least two mitigation measures to prevent seabird bycatch obligatory and the new rules will apply to all vessels fishing in its “albatross waters”—those above 23N or below 30S.
“This is a step in the right direction, although the outcome is partly a compromise following some difficult negotiations.” —Dr Cleo Small, BirdLife International
“This represents highly constructive progress, reflecting the hard work put in by several parties at the meeting, especially Australia, the United States, New Zealand and the European Community, to get effective measures for seabirds in place,” said Small.
However, the introduction of the new rules will be staggered, as a result of pressure from some of the large fleets operating in the area.
“Particular concern was expressed by BirdLife and several parties that small vessels in the South Pacific have until 31 December 2009 until the rules become mandatory. Taiwan operates up to 1,000 small vessels in these waters, and it is essential that these vessels start using mitigation measures as soon as possible,” said Small.
But she added: “This is better than all the other tuna commissions, so has raised the bar for performance.”