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Pacific

Hard work not over yet for seabird protection in the Pacific

By Shaun Hurrell, 13 Jan 2016
BirdLife will continue to work through the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission towards seabird protection to 25°S, something that has already been achieved in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans
BirdLife will continue to work through the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission towards seabird protection to 25°S, something that has already been achieved in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans

Breakthrough for saving seabirds from longline fishing mortality in the north Pacific, but there’s a catch

Along with saving seabirds on-board with fisherman as the Albatross Task Force, BirdLife’s Marine Programme also gives seabirds a voice in the international policy arena.

Accidental capture of birds by longline fishing vessels is one of the biggest threats to albatross survival worldwide. Karen Baird, seabird supporter from Forest & Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand) and BirdLife International Marine Programme, attended a meeting strongly advocating for measures to protect seabirds in both the north and south Pacific from accidental bycatch due to longline fishing.

The jurisdictions of the world’s five tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) overlap with for example 80% of global albatross distribution. As such, the meeting of the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (an RFMO) in Bali, Indonesia, was a vital opportunity to help keep seabirds off hooks.

Large fishing vessels have been required to use two methods of bycatch mitigation to reduce seabird deaths since 2014, however the numerous smaller boats have alluded these measures.

“We achieved a breakthrough in the northern hemisphere,” said Karen Baird.

“Now small vessels less than 24m long are required to use one seabird bycatch mitigation method, so species that migrate there from New Zealand such as Flesh-footed Shearwater will be better protected, alongside North Pacific albatrosses.”

The new measure for smaller boats will come into effect from January 2017. However, the meeting was a mixed result.

“Despite this positive progress in the north, no gain in the southern hemisphere this time round”, said Karen.

Two proposals were submitted to improve the Conservation and Management Measure for seabirds at this year’s Commission meeting. Both were the result of two years of work by BirdLife International, supported by the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, aimed at filling gaps where the available science indicates that mitigation is needed.

“Unfortunately, agreement could not be reached on acceptable measures to protect vulnerable seabirds between 25°S and 30°S in the Southern hemisphere,” said Karen.

“I think there may be practical issues in particular for some Pacific island countries to adopt mitigation measures at this time, however we hope these can be resolved over the coming year and a measure can be introduced for adoption at the next Commission meeting”.

“BirdLife is very pleased to finally have protection for seabirds required on all vessels in the north Pacific,” said Karen. “But long term we would like to see two measures required on small vessels and it’s not over yet.”

There is more work to do for all participating countries to reach agreement, and ensure seabirds are protected from accidental by-catch.


Thanks to the David & Lucile Packard Foundation for their ongoing support to BirdLife International for engaging with Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) and high seas fishing fleets.