South American Strategy for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels
following the recommendations of the I South American
Workshop for the Conservation of
Albatrosses and Petrels, held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, 24-28 September 2001,
and of the present workshop, held in Valdivia, Chile, 3-6 December 2003
Seabirds are among the world's most threatened bird species, and incidental mortality associated with longline fishing is one of the main problems for their conservation. All twenty-four species of albatrosses and several petrel species are currently threatened with extinction and listed under the World Conservation Union (IUCN) criteria (2003), including some species which are critically threatened. United Nations organizations, such as FAO or the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and other international conventions have taken part in promoting fishing techniques that are not detrimental to the marine ecosystem, seabirds included.
The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, adopted by FAO in 1995, encourages nations to progress towards increased sustainability of their fisheries. To decrease their environmental impact, FAO approved in 1999 the International Plan of Action to Reduce the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fishing, which sets some minimum measures and encourages states to adopt National Plans of Action. These National Plans of Action to Reduce the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fishing are a very useful tool in the conservation of biodiversity (and, particularly, of bird populations) in the marine environment
In order to address the current precarious status of seabirds, non-governmental organizations, in collaboration with scientific experts and the corresponding governments in each country, are encouraging the implementation of existing mitigation measures that allow for the continuation of the fishing activity without putting the birds at risk. Such measures, which do not carry any reduction in the number of fish caught, must be implemented in every vessel and for each setting of longline in order to be fully effective.
A large number of threatened seabird species gather in the South American continent, which places it as one of the most important regions worldwide in conservation terms. Important fisheries occur in South American waters too, and these have different levels of development and different impacts on seabirds. Despite the growing implication of authorities and stakeholders in recent years, the bad status of seabird populations requires firm and serious commitments and that specific measures be adopted as a matter of urgency.
With the aim of reducing incidental mortality of seabirds to levels that do not threaten their populations, the following activities should be developed in each country:
Promote research on the levels of seabird mortality in each individual fishery.
Implement known mitigation measures effectively in all those fisheries for which there is an indication that seabird mortality is taking place.
Improve existing mitigation measures and develop new measures for current and future fisheries.
Establish, re-establish or maintain, as appropriate, suitable schemes of scientific observers who register data on seabird mortality.
Develop training and educational programmes for the fishing sector on fishing techniques that are compatible with the conservation of seabirds.
Inform and create awareness among the general public on seabird conservation problems.
Incorporate in their national legislations appropriate measures for the conservation of seabirds.
Develop, approve and implement in each country a National Plan of Action to Reduce the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fishing, following the recommendations of FAO.
Promote the signature of the international agreements and legal measures relevant to seabird conservation, in particular the Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP).
Collaborate in a decisive manner in the eradication of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
Develop catch certification and ecolabelling schemes.
Encourage that the development of new fisheries be done under an ecosystem approach, carrying previous assessments of the environmental impact that they might cause and disposing measures to minimize or to correct such impact.
Promote the cooperation at all levels among companies, non-governmental organizations, government agencies and research institutes.
Facilitate the collaboration and data exchange on seabird mortality rates and population status among the different countries.
Determine the criteria to define important areas for breeding, foraging, migrating and resting seabirds, make inventories and provide those areas with legal protection.
Disseminate this Strategy and the conservation needs of South American albatrosses and petrels in international fora.
Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels
Carles Carboneras (SEO/BirdLife) presented the current situation of the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP). The Agreement was due to come into force on 1 February 2004, after the ratification of five countries: Australia, New Zealand, Ecuador, Spain and South Africa. Four other countries from the region had signed (Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Peru) but ratification was still pending. Representatives from those countries were reminded of the important role that could be played by delegations to the first meeting of the Parties, which would take place before February 2005. Important decisions would be made at that meeting (such as those related to the setting up of the Secretariat and the establishment of a Scientific Committee) and it would be very advantageous to be part of those discussions.
The participants reviewed the possibilities of new ratifications (such as Uruguay or the United Kingdom on behalf of Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and Tristan de Cunha) and discussed the role that they could play in relation to ACAP. Special attention was given to the implementation of ACAP's Action Plan and the new commitments that would be derived from it once it was put into action. It was agreed that a task force would be set up in future meetings with sufficient representation from the region (eg, Third International Albatross and Petrel Conference) to discuss ACAP further and to agree on the future steps.
Southern Seabird Solutions
Janice Molloy (New Zealand Department of Conservation) introduced herself as the convenor of Southern Seabird Solutions and presented the work of SSS since its inception. Born as an alliance of representatives from government, fishing industry, NGOs, seabird researchers, ecotourism operators, fisheries trainers and fishing gear manufacturers, its main goal is to promote fishing practices that avoid the incidental capture of seabirds throughout the Southern hemisphere. Seabirds are the best example of interconnectivity between countries and between oceans. Some albatross species that nest in New Zealand distribute over the Humboldt current during a significant part of the year, the most relevant example being the critically-endangered Chatham Albatross. Only through concerted actions in the different countries where the species occurs can the survival of birds such as this be guaranteed.
Most known breeding populations of albatross in the world are currently declining, which has resulted in all 24 species being threatened under IUCN criteria. Some of their threats are colony-based (habitat degradation, alien predators), but the most serious threats occur at sea: incidental mortality from fishing, as well as oceanic changes and pollution (plastic ingestion). There could be several implications of non-action (including severe restrictions for fishers) in New Zealand, so it is in everyone's interest to remove any negative aspects of fishing. For those reasons, it was decided that New Zealand should promote the joint work of individuals, organizations and institutions from several countries, because a lot more could be achieved than by those people acting separately.
Southern Seabird Solutions has been set up as a trust with a bottom-up approach, where fishers have a key role. Good operators are used as models to spread good practices with the aim of sharing expertise and ideas with other countries. In the years 2002-03, SSS has completed a report on the foraging ranges of seabirds, has promoted a fisher exchange experience with Chile, has produced a video on fishing best practice and has contracted an advisory officer for the South African tuna fishery. It has also carried out experiments with mitigation measures (line weighting) and is promoting a new fisher exchange with France (Réunion I.). SSS has established collaborations with international organizations (BirdLife International, WWF, International Fishers' Forum) and its activities have been endorsed by CCAMLR.
Looking towards the future, some new projects in which SSS could become involved include more fisher exchanges (with South America or with southern Africa), regional Fishers' Forums (e.g., in Latin America), fishermen workshops in ports, educational activities and assisting in finding funding sources. The Southern Seabird Solutions model has been very successful in New Zealand, having achieved a great deal in little time, but it still remains to be seen whether it will work in other countries.