Marine - Pacific

black naped tern (sterna sumatrana)

The BirdLife Partnership works with governments, regional fisheries management organisations, international conventions and fishing fleets around the world to reduce seabird mortality through fishing “bycatch”, which has made seabirds the most threatened of all groups of birds.

Following advocacy from BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme, and practical on-board demonstrations of seabird bycatch mitigation techniques by BirdLife’s Albatross Task Force, a growing number of the world’s Regional Fisheries Management Organisations have made the use of such techniques mandatory.

In 2012, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) agreed to measures that could result in significant reductions in seabird bycatch. All longline vessels in the South Pacific will now be required to use two mitigation measures when fishing in areas overlapping with albatrosses. Vessels must choose from bird streamers, also known as tori lines, which scare birds away from the hooks; adding weights to hooks to make them sink more quickly; or setting hooks at night when most birds are less active.

BirdLife Partners have also been engaged in mapping the most important marine areas (including coastal waters and the high seas) for seabirds. More than 3000 marine Important Bird Areas have so far been recognised, the largest global network of sites of importance for marine biodiversity. To date, the BirdLife Pacific Partnership has identified 203 Marine IBAs in the Tropical Pacific Region. Around half are nesting sites for breeding seabirds, and the rest are at sea, many of them linked to the landward sites as the likely foraging areas for breeding birds. This number could easily double when the Marine IBAs around New Zealand (possibly the most important country, globally, for breeding seabirds) are also included.

Key threats to the Marine IBAs on land include the impact of Invasive Alien Species (IAS), and increased disturbance, including unsustainable harvesting, of seabird colonies by man. The removal of IAS from islands with seabirds, or with the potential for breeding seabirds to return, is expensive, but often the best solution. The BirdLife Pacific Partnership is a global leader in eradicating IAS from seabird islands.

To prevent reinvasion or the accidental introduction of other invasive species, eradication projects need to be undertaken with future biosecurity measures in mind. This means that local communities will be the most important stakeholders in keeping islands IAS-free. BirdLife Partners in the Pacific have been involved in a growing number of projects where local communities have taken the lead on biosecurity measures. The BirdLife Pacific Partnership intends to extend this process throughout the region.

Other issues, such as the development of new industries at sea, including mining, waste disposal and the development of renewable energies, the spread of plastics, as well as other fishing methods, are potential threats to seabirds. Their impact on seabird populations need to be assessed throughout the Pacific.

Petrels that breed on high islands are often nocturnal, and nest in burrows on well-forested slopes, and so are exceedingly difficult to locate and monitor. They include the Critically Endangered Fiji and Becks Petrels, as well as other species such as Collared, Herald and Tahiti Petrel. Rapid assessment surveys, which help to identify potential breeding areas, have recently been trialled – although locating individual burrows, without specialist dogs, is still challenging. There are a number of potential sites around the region that are worth investigating using these methods. Surveys, combined with information on likely pressures such as invasive species, will enable conservation measures to be identified and put in place at the sites.

Click slideshow below to read 'Key sites for seabird conservation identified in the tropical Pacific':