PM called on to save thousands of albatross
Humane Society International (HSI) has written to Prime Minister Howard about a scandalous albatross slaughter perpetrated by Japan’s longline fisheries. We have requested that the Australian government tackle Japan over the issue at the upcoming meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) in October.
It has been estimated that Japan is catching a shocking 6000 to 9000 albatross and petrels each year in their southern bluefin tuna (SBT) longline fishery. However, that was before recent revelations that Japan may have been catching three times their allowable catch of the tuna species which means the true albatross death toll is also likely to have been much higher. The albatross and petrel family is the world’s most endangered group of birds and SBT itself is considered critically endangered.
“The number of seabirds that have been killed while catching southern bluefin tuna is horrifying. Bearing in mind the illegal effort in this fishery, we can assume that the actual number of albatross killed is even higher than has been declared by Japan” said Nicola Beynon, HSI Wildlife and Habitat Program Manager.
The issue of seabird bycatch is discussed at meetings of the CCSBT, which will also deal with Japan’s recently revealed SBT overcatch. Australia is a key player in this international forum, and HSI has called on the Prime Minister to ensure that the Government takes a strong stand on the appalling number of bird deaths as well as securing deep cuts in the SBT quota.
The birds congregate around the fishing boats, drawn by the smell of the fish used for bait, and dive to catch the bait on the hooks of the long lines. There are a variety of ways to discourage the birds from diving for the bait, or to ensure that they cannot harm themselves on the hooks. “The current requirements within the CCSBT, for seabird mitigation, monitoring and compliance are hopeless, and fall far below international standards”, said Ms. Beynon.
The only current requirement is that the boats deploy bird-scaring lines (‘tori’ lines) which are known to be ineffective unless used in conjunction with other measures such as line-weighting and night-setting. How to stop albatross and petrels bycatch is well known – the longline fisheries managed by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Mammal Living Resources (CCAMLR) have achieved a 99% reduction in bycatch in just 6 years.
“Prime Minister Howard must ensure that Australia acts firmly at the October CCSBT meeting, calling for the establishment of effective seabird mitigation measures as well as stricter monitoring and compliance mechanisms. If numbers like these keep being killed then it is only a matter of time before we drive these beautiful, majestic birds to extinction. The plight of the seabirds must not be sidelined when Australia negotiates for the commercial interests of the Australian southern bluefin tuna industry”.
A copy of HSI’s letter to the Prime Minister is available on request.