It's time to protect Europe's seabirds
In the last decade an estimated two million seabirds are thought to have died at the hands of the European fishing industry in the waters around Europe and the Atlantic. This slaughter has to stop, say BirdLife International and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), which are urging people to sign a petition to be sent to Maria Damanaki – designate European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries - to bring in long overdue measures to protect these birds.
Several of the species, which die on the end of longline hooks, get caught up in trawls or drown in gill nets are ones which are declining rapidly, and some, such as Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus, are considered to be facing extinction within a human generation.
Globally, bycatch in fisheries is threatening more seabirds than ever before and is one of the major factors causing seabirds to decline faster than any other group of birds.
Dr Euan Dunn, RSPB’s Head of Marine Policy, commented: “The European Commission has promised for a decade to bring this slaughter to an end, but two million seabirds later we are still waiting for this commitment to be honoured”.
“Despite proven, low-cost solutions being available, the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy has so far failed to address the tragedy of seabird bycatch. Several countries outside the EU have started to tackle this issue in a serious way and have shown European leaders how much can be achieved.”
BirdLife International and the RSPB are calling on the European Union to introduce a beacon of hope for seabirds, by introducing without further delay a robust EU Seabird Action Plan, following the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation’s best practice guidelines.
"We already know how to stop this slaughter, but we need your help" —Dr Euan Dunn, RSPB’s Head of Marine Policy
BirdLife’s seven-point plan includes:
- Ensuring that the action plan covers all relevant fisheries and gears, including EU vessels operating in both Community and international waters, including the high seas;
- Emergency action for the most threatened species, especially action within one year for Mediterranean longline fisheries killing Balearic Shearwater, Cory’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea and Near Threatened Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan;
- Introduce minimum mitigation standards in the areas where threatened species interact with fisheries, not least in areas that are internationally important for seabirds;
- Require EU Member States to collect and report seabird bycatch information by having a minimum of 10 per cent on-board observer coverage of fishing effort;
- Provide EU funds for research and to develop and test mitigation measures tailored to specific fisheries;
- Raise the awareness of the fishing industry and observers through training;
- Establish a platform to foster collaboration between scientists, the fishing industry, governments and NGOs to develop and improve the action plan.
Dr Euan Dunn added: “We already know how to stop this slaughter, but we need your help. There are many simple, inexpensive measures that fishing boats can take to prevent seabirds becoming hooked or entangled in nets. These measures also mean that longline boats waste less bait, and take a bigger, more valuable, catch of fish”.
“The EU action plan must include the changes in legislation needed to make sure these measures become routinely used by EU fishing fleets wherever they operate, in home waters or further afield where albatrosses also roam.”
BirdLife has identified hotspots in Europe where vulnerable seabird populations are under siege from fisheries, notably the Mediterranean for longline fisheries and the Baltic for gill-net fisheries. The EU plan will also address the impact of the EC’s distant water fleets, especially those of Spain, which target high-value species like tuna swordfish and toothfish in the south Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Sign the petition here!
Watch the video below to see Dr Euan Dunn as he seeks assurances from the UK Fisheries Minister about the UK government’s future actions regarding seabird bycatch, especially at a European level.
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Credits: Global Seabird Programme