The future of Europe’s seabirds is in your hands, Commissioner
On 15 September BirdLife International will be urging Mr. Joe Borg, the European Commissioner for Maritime affairs and Fisheries, to take action to prevent the deaths of an estimated 200,000 seabirds which are killed in fisheries in European waters every year.
Dr Euan Dunn, the head of the RSPB marine policy team (BirdLife in the UK), said: “We are extremely concerned about the Commission’s apparent lack of commitment to reduce the bycatch of seabirds dying in longline and gillnet fisheries in European waters”.
Of most concern are those species that are either facing global extinction or those with the majority of their breeding populations in Europe. In particular, Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus, which is confined as a nesting bird to Spain’s Balearic Islands, is predicted to become extinct within 40 years. It is believed that bycatch in longline fisheries is a significant factor in the decline of this ‘Critically Endangered bird’ to a precarious population of only 2000 pairs. Up to 50 individual birds have been caught on hooks on a single longline.
"Many people would be surprised that a species rarer than the tiger is being threatened with extinction by fisheries" —Dr Euan Dunn, Head of the RSPB marine policy team
Dr Euan Dunn added: “Globally, seabirds are the most visible indicators of the health of the oceans and yet, globally, they are declining faster than any other group of birds”.
“We have known for many years about the deaths of albatrosses and other seabirds in longline fisheries in the Southern Ocean, but I suspect that many people would be surprised to learn that a species rarer than the tiger is being threatened with extinction by fisheries operating in European waters”.
“We have been waiting for a decade for the European Commission to take action to reduce the toll of seabirds in Europe’s fisheries. Further delays will result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of birds. The technical adjustments to fishing practices needed to prevent this bycatch are often very simple but the political will to apply them has been lacking for far too long”.
Other species affected in European waters include Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis, Cory’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea and Steller’s Eider Polysticta stelleri.
Tatiana Nemcova, BirdLife’s Senior EU Advocacy Officer said: “Joe Borg only has a few months remaining as European Commissioner for Maritime affairs and fisheries: the proper protection of our great continent’s seabirds would be a great legacy”.
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Credits: BirdLife European Division, RSPB (BirdLife in the UK)