Marine: Giving seabirds a voice

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


Tracking Sites Bycatch Policy


Influencing marine policy

The health of the ocean deteriorating at a fast pace, and species are being threatened by non-sustainable human activities and overexploitation of natural resources. Policies and practical measures are needed to revert the loss of marine biodiversity and to allow marine ecosystems to function to deliver benefits to society.
Our advocacy work influences the development, adoption and implementation of global, regional and national regulations and measures to reduce threats to seabirds on ocean-wide scales. We work alongside national BirdLife Partners, and in collaboration with other NGOs.
Our main aims are:

  • to minimise bycatch of seabirds in fisheries,
  • the designation and effective management of a network of protected sites
  • the application of appropriate management measures to reduce pressures on seabirds and other biodiversity, to secure sustainability in the wider ocean-space.

We envisage an ocean where the most important areas for seabirds and other biodiversity are safeguarded and all activities taking place in the surrounding areas have socio-economic benefits whilst allowing biodiversity to thrive.

Policy mechanisms

BirdLife advocates for robust, evidence-based regulations and guidance to tackle the biodiversity crisis we face today.
Adoption of regulations is crucial, but just the first step for the change towards a healthier ocean. Advocacy for compliance with global marine biodiversity goals and targets by States is also key. Implement, implement, implement!

The global biodiversity framework

Biodiversity conservation is addressed by a range of political mechanisms. Some tackle all aspects of biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, others focus on species groups (the Convention on Migratory Species), ecosystems (Ramsar Convention) or regions (Regional Seas Conventions). Additionally, others, such as the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, regulate fishing activity and mitigates the impact of fishing on other biodiversity. 

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

We focus on shaping the strategic frameworks of CBD to address all aspects of seabird conservation, supporting implementation of Coastal and Marine and the Protected Areas agendas of the Convention. We have significantly contributed on the description of Ecologically or Biologically Significant marine Areas (EBSAs).

We influence negotiations for the approval and recognition of EBSAs’ protection and/or effective management.

Additionally, we generate commitments from governments and private sector to avoid adverse impacts on seabirds from exploitation, production and consumption practices. That includes reducing or eliminating the deposit of plastic in the marine environment and pollution from offshore oil and gas production.

We also call for political commitments to mitigate the effects of bycatch of seabirds on fisheries. Finally, we contribute to put enabling conditions in place, such as better ocean governance, positive financial subsidies, enhance capacity and others, to support implementation of necessary conservation policies.

Read more about our work with the CBD.

Out of sight, out of mind?  The United Nations and the high seas

The high seas is all the ocean beyond national waters i.e. 200 nautical miles from countries coasts. This area is a global commons i.e. no country owns the area or resources. 

BirdLife works in partnership and in support of the High Seas Alliance and others to influence negotiations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) towards adoption of a new High Seas treaty for conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity on the high seas. 

This new treaty, which will cover around 50% of the planet that lacks a globally-coordinated regulation, will mark a turning point for the fate of biodiversity and climate.  Without this new treaty, no matter the efforts made to conserve biodiversity within countries national waters, global goals cannot be achieved.

Regional Seas of Western, Central and Southern Africa – the Abidjan Convention.

As national waters and the high seas are connected biologically and ecologically, we work with the Strong High Seas Project team, which includes the Abidjan Convention Secretariat, to support member States of the Convention in improving the way the ocean in West, Central and Southern Africa is better governed, that is, improving decision-making processes and the way ocean is managed. Our science-based work   improves decision-makers understanding of high seas biodiversity. Therefore, we  work to establish measures to support the development of cross-sectoral approaches for ocean governance in the high seas. An example of this is to promote the coexistence of biodiversity conservation and sustainable fisheries practices.

High Seas Fisheries Management

The organisations responsible for the sustainable management of fishery resources in a region, or of highly migratory species, are the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs).

We work closely with the five tuna RFMOs, as they overlap with around 80% of albatross distribution, to ensure seabird bycatch is minimised. Since 2004 significant progress has been made and all five now require longline vessels to use seabird bycatch measures in areas overlapping with albatrosses.

Our key focus is now ensuring that fleets are complying with these requirements fully, through work to improve monitoring and data collection. We do this through advocacy work at the RFMOs, as well as direct engagement with governments whose fleets overlap most with albatrosses, and thereby pose the greatest risk to these birds. We use data from the Seabird Tracking Database to understand this overlap.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

The International Plan of Action for reducing the incidental catch of seabirds in longline fisheries (IPOA-Seabirds) was developed by the FAO in 1998. Countries are encouraged to implement National Plans of Action to reduce seabird bycatch.

We work with governments to ensure their plans are designed to effectively reduce bycatch of seabirds.

The UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 - Life Below Water

We strive to implement and support countries to implement targets under Goal 14 to Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources. We contribute our science to inform implementation and to measure progress through indicators. We engage in global discussions on ways and means to enhance implementation of sustainable development targets, across the globe.

The Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) is a legally binding treaty seeking to conserve albatrosses and petrels through international action.

BirdLife input expert advice to ACAPs Seabird Bycatch Working Group to assist with development of Best Practice advice to protect seabirds at sea. We also provide data to the Population and Conservation Status Working Group on albatross and petrel Red List status.