Global Agreements - Seabirds
BirdLife’s Global Seabirds Programme are working at the regional, national and international levels to influence the development and adoption of agreements and measures to reduce seabird bycatch. These include working with:
- FAO’s National Plans of Action to reduce seabird mortality
- Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs)
- The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatross and Petrel (ACAP)
- The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries
- UN Fish Stocks Agreement
- Forum for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea and Areas of Influence
FAO’s National Plans of Action to reduce seabird mortality (back to top)
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) helps developing countries and countries in transition modernize and improve agriculture, forestry and fisheries practices and ensure good nutrition for all.
The International Plan of Action for Reducing Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries (IPOA-Seabirds) was developed by FAO in 1998 to compliy with the Code of FAO Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (see below). The FAO has encouraged all member countries to implement the IPOA-Seabirds. In implementing the IPOA-Seabirds, States assess the seabird by-catch problem within their fisheries and/or within their coastal waters. If a bycatch problem exists, each State then develops and implements a National Plan of Action (NPOA), based on the recommendations listed in the IPOA.
The development of effective NPOAs has now been assisted by the publication of a set of Best Practice Technical Guidelines (BPTG) at the 28th Session of the UN FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) in March 2009. This is a significant step for seabird conservation and while there is considerable work to be done working with countries and RFMOs to implement the BPTG for the first time, we have a baseline that all NPOA-Seabirds should strive to meet for longline, trawl and potentially gillnet fisheries. To find out more click here.
Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) (back to top)
Regional Fisheries Management Organisations are the organisations through which countries collaborate to manage fish stocks on the high seas, as well as those that straddle the coastal waters of more than one country.
Under the UN Law of the Sea and linked agreements, Regional Fisheries Management Organisations also have a duty to minimise the bycatch of non-target species in their fisheries, including albatrosses, sharks and sea turtles.
An important way to meet this obligation is through the collection of data on bycatch rates. Then, by using bycatch mitigation measures, and through the continued monitoring of seabird deaths, it is possible to see which measures work for a particular fishery.
Bycatch reduction may also depend on other aspects of fishery management, especially the control of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.
Since 2004, the Global Seabird Programme has been working with Regional Fisheries Management Organisations to reduce seabird bycatch, and in that year conducted the first-ever environmental review of the world’s RFMOs.
In the Southern Ocean, CCAMLR (the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Marine Resources) has demonstrated what can be achieved, having reduced albatross bycatch by over 99% in its fisheries around South Georgia. However, over 80% of global albatross distribution is outside CCAMLR waters, overlapping mainly with tuna and swordfish fisheries, which are managed by the world’s five tuna commissions. In contrast to CCAMLR, in 2004 only one of the five tuna commissions had any requirements for vessels to reduce seabird bycatch.
Turning seabird bycatch commitments into action involves five key steps: recognising the problem, setting requirements for mitigation measures, collecting data, establishing systems to monitor compliance, and evaluation and refinement of measures. Since 2004, significant progress has been made in the tuna commissions, with four of the five now having requirements for their vessels to use measures to reduce the number of seabirds killed.
The next key steps include ensuring that: mitigation measures are mandatory, especially in high seas areas, they are used appropriately, their effectiveness is monitored by targeted observer projects and bycatch data are collected and made available for analysis and interpretation. This is vital to ensure that effective action takes place where it matters: at the stern of each fishing vessel. The best-practice standards, as achieved by CCAMLR, need to be implemented by all RFMOs.
The Global Procellariform Tracking Database has been very important in our work with these organisations. It has enabled the overlap between seabird populations and fisheries to be mapped, making it possible to target our conservation efforts more effectively. To find out more click here.
The Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) (back to top)
In early 2001 negotiations concluded on an international treaty, the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP).
This agreement requires signatory states to take specific measures to improve the conservation status of albatrosses and petrels. Measures include research and monitoring, reduction of incidental mortality in fisheries, eradication of non-native species at breeding sites, reduction of disturbance and habitat loss, and reduction of pollution. The Agreement is established under the auspices of the Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) and is legally binding.
The following countries have ratified the ACAP agreement to date: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, France, Ecuador, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, the Republic of South Africa, Spain, United Kingdom, and Uruguay. BirdLife is the main NGO Observer at all ACAP meetings and plays an active role in all ACAP Working Groups, especially Seabird Bycatch WG. It is also co-leading on the identification of Internationally Important Sites for ACAP species and in developing indicators to measure conservation progress through the ACAP Agreement. To find out more click here.
The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (back to top)
The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries sets out principles for sustainable fisheries management.
Of particular relevance to the conservation of albatrosses, the Code of Conduct establishes the duties of fishery management organisations to conserve all species that are affected by fisheries, including seabirds, cetaceans, turtles and sharks. The Code also includes duties to collect data on non-target species and to minimise waste, discards, bycatch and impacts on the ecosystem.
The Code also establishes standards for participation and transparency within fisheries management, duties to use a ‘precautionary approach’ to management, and duties to combat Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing.
The Code of Conduct is a voluntary instrument. It was adopted in 1995 by the 28th Session of the FAO Conference. 126 States declared their support of the Code in The Rome Declaration on the Implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (1995). To find out more click here.
UN Fish Stocks Agreement (back to top)
The United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement establishes principles for the conservation and management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, and establishes the duties of fishery management organisations to conserve all non-target, associated and dependent species that are affected by the fisheries, including seabirds.
The Agreement also establishes standards for participation and transparency within fisheries management, duties to use a ‘precautionary approach’ to management, and duties to combat Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing. To find out more click here.
Forum for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea and Areas of Influence (back to top)
In addition to the above agreements, for several years, a group of Conservation NGOs (under the leadership of the Wildlife Conservation Society) have been meeting to promote the sustainable use of the resources of the Patagonian Shelf and associated areas, together with improved conservation of species dependent on these resources.
As the region contains numerous globally important breeding and feeding sites for seabirds, including a range of globally threatened species, BirdLife International, particularly through its Global Seabird Programme and with the full support and participation of relevant partners in South America, has played an active role in discussion and in the assembly of data to address the key conservation issues. To find out more click here.