Marine: Giving seabirds a voice

Arctic Tern © Mark Medcalf/Shutterstock
Arctic Tern © Mark Medcalf/Shutterstock


Tracking Sites Bycatch Policy


Influencing marine policy

Our policy work is conducted alongside our national BirdLife Partners, and in collaboration with other NGOs at international, national and regional levels to influence the development, adoption and implementation of regulations and measures to reduce threats to seabirds on ocean-wide scales. The two main strands of our policy work aim to protect and reduce bycatch of seabirds in fisheries. We work with:


People in charge of the management of fisheries

The organisations dedicated to the sustainable management of fishery resources in a particular region, or of highly migratory species, are known as Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs).

We conducted the first-ever environmental review of the world’s RFMOs, finding that most were not yet addressing the incidental catch of seabirds in fisheries effectively. We now work closely with them to ensure vessels operating in international waters use best practice seabird bycatch mitigation measures.

The Tracking Ocean Wanderers Database has been very important as it has enabled the overlap between seabird populations and fisheries to be mapped.

Significant progress has been made: all five tuna commissions now require their longline vessels to use bycatch reduction measures in most areas overlapping with albatrosses.


Global agreements promoting marine conservation

The agreement to save albatrosses and petrels

The Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels is a legally binding treaty that seeks to conserve albatrosses and petrels through international action.

BirdLife provides them with data on albatross and petrel Red List status, information from the Albatross Task Force, and collaborates to engage with the above mentioned RFMOs.

We have jointly produced mitigation factsheets that detail the measures available to reduce bycatch in longline and trawl fisheries.

The United Nations and the high seas

BirdLife is working in partnership and in support of the High Seas Alliance to influence negotiations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) towards a new agreement for the conservation of biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (ocean waters that fall beyond the 200 nautical miles which countries have governance on or the high seas).

Despite covering over 60% of the oceans and holding high diversity of life, there is yet no mechanism that allows for their protection.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

Also known as the Biodiversity Convention, this international treaty signed by 196 parties has three main goals including the conservation of biodiversity; the sustainable use of its components; and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources.

Our marine work with the CBD is focused on supporting the implementation of the Marine and Coastal Biodiversity and the Protected Areas Programmes of Work, particularly on the identification of Ecologically or Biologically Significant marine Areas (EBSAs).

We are providing governments with extensive data compilation and analyses for the EBSAs identification process across all oceans and seas in the world. We also work to influence negotiations  at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention for the approval of areas identified and the recognition of the need for EBSAs’ protection and/or management.

Read more about our work with the CBD.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization

The International Plan of Action for reducing the incidental catch of seabirds in longline fisheries (known as IPOA-Seabirds) was developed by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1998.

Countries are encouraged by the FAO to implement National Plans of Action to reduce seabird bycatch.

We work nationally to make sure those plans are effective and support the development of Best Practice Technical Guidelines, with the aim of expanding the action plan to all the world’s fisheries.