Marine: How we work
Threats to the world's seabirds
Impacts on seabirds are varied and widespread, as detailed in this review by BirdLife International. They include:
- Pollution (oil case study, plastic case study, light case study)
- Climate change (indicators case study, sea level rise case study, natural disaster case study)
- Human disturbance (colony case study, at sea case study)
- Invasive species (house mice case study)
Developing solutions – The BirdLife International Marine Programme
Recognising the multiple threats, BirdLife International established its Global Seabird Programme in 1997. This has evolved into the BirdLife International Marine Programme, now working in 120 countries and on the high seas.
The objectives of the programme are to:
- Promote collaborative international action vital to arrest seabird declines by influencing global policy decisions
- Advocate for the conservation of seabirds at national, regional and global levels through research
- Work directly with fishermen and other stakeholders to reduce seabird bycatch and other threats to seabirds through testing and demonstration of mitigation measures
Influencing marine policy
Our policy work is conducted with BirdLife Partners at international, regional and national levels to influence the development and adoption of agreements and measures to reduce threats to seabirds on ocean-wide scales. The BirdLife Partnership is also working with national governments and international bodies to create a network of Marine Protected Areas. We work with:
Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs)
In 2004, we conducted the first-ever environmental review of the world’s RFMOs, finding that most were not yet addressing bycatch effectively. We now work closely with RFMOs to press for assessment and 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.
The Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP)
BirdLife is an observer organisation to ACAP, the multilateral agreement that seeks to conserve albatrosses and petrels through international action. We play an active role in all ACAP Working Groups and contribute to National Plans of Action to reduce seabird bycatch. BirdLife provides ACAP with data on albatross and petrel Red List status, information from the Albatross Task Force, and our work with RFMOs.
With ACAP, BirdLife has produced mitigation factsheets that detail the potential mitigation measures available to reduce bycatch in longline and trawl fisheries.
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
The BirdLife Strategy 2013-2020 is linked to and fully supportive of the CBD Strategic Plan for Biodiversity. BirdLife has been working with the CBD for many years and we have a Memorandum of Understanding with the Convention as a platform for coordinating activities in support of achieving the Aichi Targets, 20 globally agreed biodiversity targets for 2020.
Our marine work has primarily focused on supporting the CBD’s push to identify Ecologically or Biologically Significant marine Areas (EBSAs) in need of protection and management. This has involved extensive data compilation and analysis for all expert workshops convened to date including for the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean and beyond. We also influence discussions at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention.
We work through a range of regional conventions to ensure seabirds are an integral part of Marine Protected Area design and designation.
FAO’s International Plan of Action to reduce seabird mortality (IPOA-Seabirds)
The International Plan of Action for reducing incidental catch of seabirds in longline fisheries (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 (NPOAs).
BirdLife works nationally to support the development of effective NPOAs. BirdLife also supported the development of the FAO’s Best Practice Technical Guidelines to guide effective NPOAs and to expand the IPOA to all fisheries.
Marine Stewardship Council
BirdLife is actively involved with the Marine Stewardship Council (regarded as the most robust fisheries sustainability certification scheme), through membership of its Stakeholder Council, and through commenting on individual fishery certifications.
Conservation through sound science
Our science and research is focused on collation and analysis to support our policy work and to make seabird data available for use by conservationists, policymakers, fisheries, the energy sector, marine pollution management planners and the insurance industry. Our expertise and evidence have catalysed action to identify and tackle threats to seabirds.
We test and refine seabird bycatch mitigation measures and collect data on accidental seabird bycatch. We are at the forefront of developing new mitigation measures, including in gillnet fisheries, where no best practice measures exist at present. To support seabird conservation efforts and sound decision making, we manage a range of databases, including the global e-atlas of marine Important Bird Areas (around coasts, in territorial waters and on the high seas), the Tracking Ocean Wanderers database (the largest compilation of long-term tracking data in existence) and a seabird foraging behaviour database. We also support global initiatives such as those established by the World Seabird Union.
BirdLife’s science-based approach informs species protection, from seaducks to shearwaters and puffins to penguins. For example, we are building the understanding of penguin movements at sea and potential threats from fisheries, and we have established a forum for researchers to share experiences and determine conservation priorities for the enigmatic Pterodroma petrels.
Working with people
To reverse the declines being experienced by almost half of all seabird species, the Marine Programme works closely with the communities and marine champions that can help bring about a change in seabird fortunes.
These include BirdLife Partners, national experts and the scientific community with whom we continue to develop the marine Important Bird Area network; and fishers and fisheries managers, with whom we have conducted seabird bycatch workshops to identify gear changes that can make fishing less hazardous to seabirds. The BirdLife Partnership is also working to protect seabird nesting sites on land, especially by eradicating invasive species.
A white-capped Albatross. Photo: Ben Lascelles
One of the most powerful examples of our community engagement – the Albatross Task Force (ATF) – was created in 2006. It is the world's first international team of expert instructors in seabird bycatch mitigation measures.
The ATF teams are based in the bycatch 'hotspots' of southern Africa and South America, where albatrosses come into contact with large and diverse fishing fleets.
Since its formation, we have seen dramatic reductions in the numbers of albatrosses and other seabirds killed, with the ATF in South Africa leading the way by demonstrating a sustained reduction in bycatch of more than 85% in trawl and longline fisheries. Following this successful model, we established the Seabird Task Force, tackling longline and gillnet bycatch in Europe.
Catch up on the latest news from the Albatross Task Force teams.