Bycatch in SBT longline fisheries is under the remit of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT), which has an Ecologically Related Species (ERS) working group. This group however is extremely inactive - it meets only every two years and has not established any mitigation measures since 1995 when they required bird-scaring lines (' tori-lines') to be deployed, which are grossly inadequate in reducing seabird deaths.
The CCSBT will meet again on 10th-13th October, and it is imperative that Australia acts firmly at this meeting, calling for the establishment of effective mitigation measures, as well as stricter monitoring and compliance mechanisms. Australia must not allow this issue to be sidelined in light of the ' hot' topic of Japan's SBT overcatch ' both are critical issues that need addressing in the CCSBT forum.
Write to the Prime Minister (at Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600) and urge him to ensure that Australia takes a strong stance at the CCSBT with regard to albatross bycatch. Send a copy of your letter to Environment Minister Senator Ian Campbell, Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer and Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation Eric Abetz (all at the same Parliament address).
Key measures that should be established at the CCSBT:
- effective mitigation mechanisms for seabird bycatch like night-setting in conjunction with weighted lines (following the example of the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, CCAMLR which has reduced bycatch by 99% in six years)
- stricter monitoring mechanisms involving a Catch Documentation Scheme (CDS) and independent observers on fishing boats
- strict compliance mechanisms
- as well as at least a 50% reduction in the global SBT quota, as recommended by the CCSBT Scientific Committee (noting that if Australia followed its own EPBC Act obligations there would be no fishing for SBT in Australian waters)