Australian seabirds continue to drown on fishing lines as the World celebrates World Migratory Bird Day
This weekend (10th-11th May) marks World Migratory Bird Day*, when global celebrations are held to raise awareness on the need to protect migratory birds and their habitat.
In Australia however, with our migratory birds still subject to a number of threats, it is clear that there is still much work to do before we can celebrate.
A key threat that Humane Society International (HSI) has worked on for a number of years is that from longline fishing operations. When the longlines are set, birds are attracted to the baits and get caught on the hooks and drown. However, this can be avoided with the implementation of simple mitigation measures. HSI’s work on this issue led to Australia adopting a Threat Abatement Plan** which has been in place since 1998, following a successful HSI nomination of longline fishing as a ‘key threatening process’. Whilst substantial progress has been made in this time, HSI was extremely concerned to learn this week that the rates set in this plan have been breached for the third year in a row by an Australian fishery.
“We had hoped by this stage that we would be celebrating zero seabird bycatch in Australia’s longline fisheries,” said HSI’s Alexia Wellbelove. “Instead, we are appalled to learn that Australian boats continue to breach agreed targets and kill our protected migratory seabirds, all because they have failed to put in place basic mitigation measures to ensure that bait is taken swiftly out of the birds reach. This breach is all the more worse as it is the third year in a row that excessive seabird deaths have been recorded in this fishery, despite intensive work to address this issue.”
“On World Migratory Bird Day, it is time that Australian fisheries took this issue seriously and commit to zero seabird by-catch and those boats that fail to put in place simple mitigation measures, punished by having their fishing rights removed,” concluded Ms Wellbelove.
HSI has today written to both the Environment and Fisheries Ministers and urged them to shut this fishery until such time as the boats and crew involved can be proven to be capable of meeting the basic mitigation measures. In addition, we continue to call for the limits in the Threat Abatement Plan to be reduced in order to drive continuous improvement in fishery practices.