Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

December 2001 Newsletter

In this issue:

The Signing Ceremony

The Signing Parties

Ratification of the Agreement

Interim Chair of the Advisory Committee

Secretariat

The First Meeting of the Parties

Report from the Recent IMALF Meeting

Underwater Setting Capsule Device

Seabird/Fisheries Advisory Officer

New Zealand Observer Program

 

The Signing Ceremony

In its role as Interim Secretariat, Australia hosted the official signing ceremony for the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels.

The Agreement was opened for signature in Canberra, Australia on 19 June 2001. Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) News - Issue 1 A signing ceremony was attended by 13 Range States, a number of international conservation organisations, non-government organisations and representatives from the Australian fishing industry. The Agreement was signed by Australia, Brazil, Chile, France, New Zealand, Peru and the United Kingdom, symbolising an international commitment to protect albatrosses and petrels and marking a major step forward in the fight to protect these migratory seabirds.

The Signing Parties

The early signature of seven countries demonstrated these Range State's commitment to early ratification and implementation of this critical document. The Agreement seeks to achieve and maintain a favourable conservation status for albatrosses and petrels, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere where the majority of albatross and petrel species occur, and prompt international, concerted effort is required to achieve this objective.

Ratification of the Agreement

Australia ratified the Agreement on 4 October 2001. New Zealand ratified the Agreement 1 November 2001.

Other countries are also pursuing ratification of the Agreement through their domestic processes and the Interim Secretariat is optimistic that the Agreement will enter into force by mid-2002.

Interim Chair of the Advisory Committee

It is our pleasure to announce that Dr Colin Galbraith will continue in the role as Interim Chair of the Advisory Committee in the lead up to, and during, the first Meeting of Parties. Dr Galbraith played a critical role facilitating the Agreement and finalisation of the Action Plan annexed to the Agreement at the negotiation session held in Cape Town, South Africa, earlier this year.


Dr Galbraith's continuation as Interim Chair will enable any prior work done on key activities to blend seamlessly with activities raised during the first Meeting of the Parties and ensure that critical items are not overlooked during the initial stages of implementation of the Agreement.

Secretariat

In recognising the importance for the future Secretariat to be located in the Southern Hemisphere, Australia offered to continue Interim Secretariat functions until the final location of the Permanent Secretariat is decided at the first Meeting of the Parties. Australia is also host of the Depository of the Agreement.

The First Meeting of the Parties

As Interim Secretariat, Australia is preparing material for the first Meeting of the Parties (MoP) that will be held as soon as practical after the Agreement's entry into force. Provided the Agreement comes into force by mid-2002, the MoP will be able to be held in the latter half of 2002. This takes account of the delayed entry into force following five ratifications, as outlined in Article XVI of the Agreement.

The Interim Secretariat is seeking views from Range States on possibilities for the location and timing of the first MoP. One option is to hold the meeting either prior to, or following, the 7th CMS CoP. The 7th CMS CoP will be held from 15 - 28 September 2002 in Bonn, Germany, which may offer some benefits to delegates with regard to costs and logistics. However, with the second MoP for AEWA being held in conjunction with the CMS CoP, and with RIO+10 occurring in South Africa the week before, it may be more appropriate to hold the first MoP for ACAP as a discrete event. It could be fitting to hold the first MoP in a Southern Hemisphere country, retaining the focus on Southern Hemisphere albatross and petrel species.

Report from the Recent IMALF Meeting

The Incidental Mortality Arising from Longline Fishing (IMALF) Working Group met on 8 to 18 October 2001 to review data on incidental mortality of seabirds during both regulated and unregulated longline fishing in the CCAMLR Convention Area.

One of the largest longline fisheries currently operating in the world's oceans occurs within the CCAMLR Convention Area. This is the Patagonian Toothfish fishery which began operating in the sub Antarctic on a large scale in the 1990s.

Over the last five years seabird bycatch in the regulated fisheries in the Convention Area has been reduced by 95%. These reductions have been achieved mainly by: delaying the start of fishing until after the end of the breeding season of most albatross and petrel species in the area; changes in where fishing occurred (e.g., further away from breeding islands) in other areas; and improved use of mitigation measures prescribed in CCAMLR Conservation Measure 29/XIX. 

Conservation measures require that all vessels set lines at night, use effective streamer lines during setting, apply appropriate weights to longlines to achieve a rapid sink rate and discharge offal on the side opposite to where lines are hauled. Whilst compliance with the conservation measure has vastly improved in recent years, there is still room for further improvement. This applies particularly with line weighting, with many vessels continuing to use their own regimes for line weighting (about 44 m between weights) rather than the 40-m recommended by CCAMLR.

The use of existing and new methods of avoiding incidental mortality of seabirds during longline fishing was also discussed. Evidence was again presented that demonstrated that night setting continues to be one of the most effective and simple methods of reducing albatross mortalities. A number of other papers presented discussed novel ways of ameliorating albatross and petrel bycatch. These included: the use of scupper screens to prevent discharge of offal and bait from a vessel while processing the catch;  boom and bridle system used by a New Zealand vessel. This system allows the skipper and crew to move the position of the streamer line either to the starboard or port so that it is always directly over the longline, irrespective of the wind direction; two new innovations being investigated in New Zealand - a line shaker (termed a 'gigolo') and two long poles with streamers that extend directly aft from both stern quarters of a vessel; paired streamer lines may be more effective than single streamer lines at reducing seabird mortalities; and the Mustad underwater setting funnel (lining tube) used by South African vessels, which continues to be effective in daytime fishing around the PrinceEdwardIslands.

Trials of an underwater setting chute is also being conducted in Australian waters. A trial including 10 boats, with 100% observer coverage, is currently underway. Details on the outcomes of the trial will be available in future editions.

Underwater Setting Capsule Device

One of two underwater setting devices designed to set baits underwater, out of the reach of seabirds, has undergone a complete redesign in New Zealand. The original capsule device was found to have significant safety problems - as a consequence, the inventor has improved its safety features. Preliminary trials seem very favourable and full sea trials will be completed during the Southern Bluefin Tuna season in April.

Seabird/Fisheries Advisory Officer

The New Zealand Department of Conservation has appointed a Seabird/Fisheries Advisory Officer, Dave Kellian, to work with the New Zealand tuna fleet. Dave has worked as a tuna fisherman for many years and so is very familiar with fishing and the constraints that exist during fishing. The first task he has undertaken is to develop a "best practice" tori line for the fleet. He has found a design developed by one of the skippers that is superior to any others seen to date! He is now in the process of constructing tori lines of this design and providing them to skippers. Dave will also be talking with each of the 130 skippers in the tuna fleet and providing them with the latest information on seabird bycatch mitigation.

New Zealand Observer Program

The Ministry of Fisheries and Department of Conservation has contracted a consultant to prepare a report describing the New Zealand Observer Program. This is in response to frequent requests for information on the observer program from other countries interested in establishing their own observer schemes. It is hoped that the report will be translated into Spanish so that it can be readily used by South American countries.

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