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28 October 2008 - Action finally taken to curb albatross deaths in southern bluefin tuna fisheries      

Action finally taken to curb albatross deaths in southern bluefin tuna fisheries

28 October 2008                                                                  

A recommendation that could save the lives of thousands of seabirds, sharks and turtles in southern bluefin tuna fisheries was adopted recently at a meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT). Estimated to be responsible for the gruesome deaths of over 10,000 albatross every year, the recommendation directs southern bluefin tuna longline fisheries to use a combination of measures to reduce the incidental capture of other marine life.

The CCSBT management area coincides with the distribution of 17 of the world’s 24 albatross species, the world’s most endangered group of birds. Humane Society International (HSI) was present at the meeting as an Observer, and in an opening statement to the Commission, expressed our frustration at the historic lack of agreement in the Commission that has allowed the bycatch of seabirds and other species to continue unabated.

“This is a significant development at the CCSBT,” said Danielle Annese, HSI’s representative at the meeting. “The Commission has been deadlocked on even discussing bycatch issues, failing to agree a new mitigation measure to prevent the capture of seabirds since 1997. Now we at least have a Recommendation from the Commission that directs its members to adopt a combination of measures to avoid catching seabirds, sharks and turtles in the longline fisheries targeting southern bluefin tuna.”

The Recommendation asks members to comply with all the binding measures for bycatch under the jurisdiction of other Regional Fisheries Management Organisations when fishing in their areas of competence, to implement the International Plan of Action for Seabirds, and to report annually to the Commission on progress with these measures.

While not as strong as a legally-binding Resolution, the Recommendation provides a vital first step to curbing the death toll of marine species in SBT fisheries.  “To be successful, it is crucial that the Recommendation is complied with by the SBT longline fleets of all member countries,” said Ms Annese.

“Unfortunately, compliance in fisheries around the world is notoriously poor. HSI will expect the Commission to upgrade to legally binding measures at next year’s annual meeting. To seriously cut the seabird death rate in these fisheries, the CCSBT needs to develop its own mitigation protocol that requires the compulsory weighting of fishing lines so that baited hooks sink quickly out of the reach of seabirds, or that lines are set at night, in addition to secondary bait protection strategies.”

The resolution applies to SBT longline fisheries in Australia, European Union, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Philippines, South Africa, New Zealand and Taiwan. 

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