Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

February 2004 Newsletter

In this issue: In this issue:

ACAP enters into force

National workshop about seabird conservation in Argentina

Taiwan addresses seabird bycatch

Funding for seabird inventions


Seabird conservation projects receive funding boost

ACAP-funded geo-location loggers recovered from Marion albatrosses after a year at sea

ACAP ENTERS INTO FORCE


Australia, New Zealand, Ecuador, Spain and the Republic of South Africa are today a party to ACAP which met its threshold for entry into force following the Republic of South Africa being the fifth country to become a party. Since the last ACAP News, ratification by Spain, and South Africa has meant that ACAP entered into force on 1 February 2004. It is expected that the First Meeting of Parties will be held in the latter half of 2004, most likely in Australia, which currently hosts the Interim Secretariat.

On 12 August 2003 at a ceremony in Canberra, Australia, His Excellency Mr José Ramón Barañamo Fernández signed ACAP and deposited an Instrument of Ratification on behalf of Spain. Spain has no breeding populations of albatrosses and petrels within its jurisdiction, and is the first major fishing nation to recognise the importance of the Agreement in the conservation of these birds. Spain interacts with many seabirds during its fishing activities, including threatened albatrosses and petrels that forage in the Southern Ocean. Its ratification indicates a strong commitment to minimising any threat its fishing activities may have on these seriously threatened birds.

On 6 November 2003South Africa deposited its Instrument of Ratification of ACAP with the Interim Secretariat in Canberra. ACAP was signed on behalf of South Africa by His Excellency Mr Anthony Mongalo, High Commissioner to Australia. By this action South Africa becomes the fifth country to ratify the Agreement. It is fitting that South Africa has now joined ACAP because it hosted the second and final negotiation meeting in Cape Town in January 2001, at which the final text of the Agreement was adopted.

South Africa is particularly important for the conservation of albatrosses and petrels. It is a range state to 15 of the 28 species covered under ACAP. South Africa's sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands are important breeding sites for nine of these species, most of which have a formal threatened conservation status. The Prince Edward Islands are particularly important to the Wandering Albatross, hosting more than 40% of the world's population of this species. It is expected that South Africa joining ACAP will boost conservation-related research on the Prince Edward Islands, allowing for the best management of these important populations of threatened species.

Another country has also signed the Agreement recently, bringing the number of signatories to eleven. On 19 January 2004, the Argentine Ambassador in Australia, Mr Stancanelli, signed ACAP in a ceremony held in Canberra, Australia. The signing was attended by officers of the Foreign Affairs and Environment agencies of the Australian Government who acknowledged the importance of Argentina becoming part of ACAP. The South American country is home of the Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty, and membership of ACAP will reinforce Argentina's commitment through international action to the conservation of Antarctic living resources, of which albatrosses and petrels are an important component.

NATIONAL WORKSHOP ABOUT SEABIRD CONSERVATION IN ARGENTINA


On 23-25th April 2003, a workshop was held to discuss seabird conservation problems caused by fisheries, in order to assess the current situation in Argentina's waters. The meeting was attended by researchers, NGOs, government officers and other parties interested in the issue. The workshop was organized by Aves Argentinas / AOP and Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina, supported by the University of Mar del Plata, the Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Desarrollo Pesquero (National Institute for Research and Development of Fisheries) and the Dirección de Fauna Silvestre of the Secretaría de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sustentable de la Nación (Wildlife Office of the National Environmental and Sustainable Development Secretariat), and was sponsored by SEO/BirdLife, Vogelbescherming Nederland and WWF.

Aves Argentinas has been working for a year on the 'Seabird Conservation project', which focuses on the problem of incidental mortality of albatrosses and petrels in longline fisheries operating in the ArgentineSea.

Over three days attendees were updated on the various projects and initiatives currently underway on this issue, and group discussions were held to discuss current problems. The outcome of the workshop was a diagnostic assessment of the main difficulties that seabirds face as a result of fishing activities, as well as a list of recommendations. These recommendations are aimed at various levels (government, NGOs, scientific researchers, etc.) and are intended to favor actions that will reduce the impact that some fishing activities have on seabird populations.

The 29 participants worked closely and in a harmonious atmosphere, leading to a fruitful exchange of ideas. Crucial to the success of the workshop was the active part played by members of Aves Argentinas' seabird project scientific consultation group (Drs M. Favero, P. Gandini, F. Quintana, A. Schiavini and P. Yorio).

At the meeting the Foreign Office Director of Environmental Issues, Ambassador Maria Esther Bondanza, announced that the Argentine Government is showing interest in becoming a party to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP).

Fabián Rabuffetti

Seabird Conservation Project

Aves Argentinas / AOP

BirdLife Partner in Argentina

TAIWAN ADDRESSES SEABIRD BYCATCH


Significant steps have been taken by the Taiwanese Government to address seabird bycatch on legally-operated Taiwanese owned vessels.

The Deputy Administrator of the Taiwanese Fisheries Administration, Council of Agriculture, James Sha, announced in 2002 a Government-funded scientific observer programme for Taiwanese longline fishing vessels. On-board observers will monitor the level of seabird bycatch on these vessels and to date, six observers have been deployed in the Southern Atlantic, Indian and PacificOceans, spending up to three months at sea on each deployment. Observers receive an intensive three-week training course. During the first of these, Professor Chien-chung Cheng, President of the Wild Bird Federation Taiwan (WBFT, BirdLife in Taiwan), gave a lecture on the conservation status and threats faced by albatrosses and petrels. Seabird bycatch mitigation measures are also covered in training courses held for officers of longline vessels.

Although Taiwan is not recognised as a sovereign state by the UN, it is nevertheless following the guidelines of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) International Plan of Action (IPOA) to reduce seabird bycatch, and is currently preparing a National Plan of Action (NPOA). All Taiwanese vessels legally fishing south of 30ºS are required to use bird-scaring lines and to set lines only at night. Since 1996 the Fisheries Administration has subsidised the installation of approximately 150 bird-scaring lines. An educational booklet, Catch Fish not Birds, has been published in Mandarin and distributed to longline fishing vessels, and the Tuna Boat-owners Association has assisted 140 Albacore longline vessels to install automatic bait casting machines and 70 vessels to be equipped with bird-scaring lines.

More than 500 Taiwanese-owned longline vessels operate legally world-wide, targeting various species of tuna. A further 169 Taiwanese-owned vessels operate under a Flag of Convenience outside of Taiwan's domestic legislation. Many of these vessels operate in the Southern Ocean, south of 30ºS, where unsustainable numbers of seabirds are killed.

Taiwanese and Japanese authorities are collaborating on an Action Plan to deter Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing vessels (so-called 'pirate fishing' boats) that operate under a Flag of Convenience. These illegal boats are undoubtedly responsible for killing large numbers of seabirds - they act outside the rules and do little to prevent seabird bycatch. The Action Plan operates on a 'white list' basis, whereby legally operating vessels are recognised by both countries, and their landings and trade can be controlled. This is preferable to blacklisting pirate vessels which can change names and registration details all too easily.

In January 2004 BirdLife and WBFT held an Asian-focused technical workshop on seabird bycatch mitigation measures in Taiwan. It focused on sharing technical and practical information on which mitigation methods are best suited to vessels operating out of the region and ways to reduce seabird bycatch further while at the same time improving fishing efficiency.

[Reproduced in part from the March 2003 issue of World Birdwatch, and updated.]

FUNDING FOR SEABIRD INVENTIONS


Inventions aimed at reducing the number of seabirds accidentally caught and killed in the course of commercial fishing are in line for a funding boost.

Southern Seabird Solutions is encouraging New Zealand inventors to apply for international grants to fund research into seabirds and mitigation measures, and education and awareness projects.

Seabirds forage far and wide across the oceans and they have learnt that commercial fishing vessels are an easy source of food. Thousands of seabirds in the southern hemisphere die each year when they dive on baited fishing hooks and are then pulled under the water.

Birds Australia, a partner of Birdlife International which runs the global campaign to save albatrosses, administers funds raised on ships operated by the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO).

This year approximately $NZ36,000 has been raised from donations following lectures to cruise ship passengers during the Antarctic tourism season.

Fund organiser Graham Robertson says passengers are presented with information about the threats to albatrosses from fishing, along with slides, notes and a separate video prepared by the UK Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

"The purpose is to raise awareness of the threats that seabirds face in fisheries and to raise funds for conservation initiatives," he says.

An international panel of conservation experts - including two members of Southern Seabird Solutions - will decide which projects to fund. Last year the funding was awarded to an innovative New Zealand fishing industry experiment into the use of integrated line weights which make baited long-lines sink faster than usual.

The convenor of Southern Seabird Solutions, Janice Molloy, who also leads the Department of Conservation's seabird conservation programme, is urging New Zealand inventors to apply for the funding by the cut-off date of 20 July, 2003.

"This particular initiative has a number of benefits. It allows the passengers on cruise ships to contribute in a very direct and meaningful way to the conservation of the seabirds that they see outside their portholes, and they also get feedback about how their money has been spent."

WWF New Zealand also welcomes the funding. Conservation Director Chris Howe:

"We wholeheartedly support this initiative to provide much needed funds for seabird conservation. We applaud the commitment by the tourism industry to establish this mechanism which allows visitors to the Antarctic to put something back into conservation of these special places."

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Seafood Industry Council of New Zealand, Dave Sharp, says fishers today are increasingly committed to seabird mitigation.

"Our approach to solving problems has produced some very innovative mitigation techniques and technologies," he says. "One international seabird expert recently described New Zealand fishers' work with seabird mitigation as a 'hotbed of innovation'."

For more information contact:

Graham Robertson

Fund organiser

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Visit www.birdsaustralia.com.au/albatross/intro.html

SEABIRD CONSERVATION PROJECTS RECEIVE FUNDING BOOST


Southern Seabird Solutions has received funding to establish a seabird-fisheries advisory officer in South Africa, produce a package of seabird conservation resources for fishers in Chile and Peru, and for two South Americans to visit New Zealand in November.

These projects are in addition to others already underway, which include the production of a seabird video in both English and Spanish, and a fisher exchange involving Chile and New Zealand.

Southern Seabird Solutions is an alliance of government departments, fishing industry organisations, environmental groups, ecotourism operators and seabird researchers working cooperatively to promote the adoption of fishing practices which avoid the mortality of southern hemisphere seabirds.

The group's activities align with ACAP objectives which promote capacity building, training, education and cooperation between parties.

The details of the projects which have received funding are:

Southern Seabird Solutions, in partnership with WWF and Birdlife South Africa, has received just over $NZ 11,000 from a fund organised by the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO). This fund is raised from donations following lectures to cruise ship passengers during the Antarctic tourism season each year. The grant will be used to establish a seabird-fisheries advisory officer in South Africa to work with fishers and fleets on seabird identification and conservation awareness.

Southern Seabird Solutions has received $5000 from the Ornithological Congress Trust to produce a package of seabird conservation resources for Chilean and Peruvian fishing fleets. These will help fishers identify vulnerable seabird species, show how to remove seabirds from fishing hooks, and explain the range of measures available to reduce the likelihood of their accidental capture during fishing.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in New Zealand has agreed to make funds available from its Latin America Strategy Fund for a visit of two South Americans - from Peru and Chile - to New Zealand in November, to attend the Southern Seabird Solutions annual meeting in Auckland and to build relationships with New Zealand fishers who are actively working on seabird conservation. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's involvement is consistent with the New Zealand Government?s Latin America Strategy which aims to develop closer, self-sustaining links with Latin America across a broad range of interests.

Meanwhile, Sanford Limited was due to host a fisher from Chile on board one of its vessels early in November 2003. The aim: to exchange expertise on the seabird issue, enabling the Chilean fisher to return home with information and ideas from New Zealand which he may be able to adapt to the needs of fleets in Chile.

The convenor of Southern Seabird Solutions, Janice Molloy, who also heads the New Zealand Department of Conservation's seabird protection programme, says that Southern Seabird Solutions has identified South American fishers as a key group to work with.

Nine New Zealand seabird species forage in the waters around South America. The antipodean albatross, black petrel, Bullers albatross, Chatham albatross, northern royal albatross, salvins albatross, sooty shearwater, southern royal albatross, and Westland petrel all breed in New Zealand but spend much of their adult lives off the coasts of Chile, Peru, Argentina, Falkland Islands, Brazil and Ecuador.

"These birds call a number of places 'home'," says Janice Molloy. "The birds that we think of as New Zealand birds could equally be known as Chilean or Peruvian birds. For me, that reinforces the link between New Zealand and South America - not only do we have fishing in common, but we also share the same seabirds and the same need to protect them."

ACAP-FUNDED GEO-LOCATION LOGGERS RECOVERED FROM MARION ALBATROSSES AFTER A YEAR AT SEA


After the final (and most successful) negotiation meeting for ACAP, held in Cape Town in early 2002, there was a little money left over in the secretarial account. Major funding for the meeting had been received from the Australian, New Zealand and United Kingdom Governments. With their unanimous approval, this remaining money (about US$ 100) was donated to the Fitz Patrick Institute, University of Cape Town, to allow for the purchase of two geo-location loggers for use on albatrosses at South Africa's sub-Antarctic Marion Island. This at-sea tracking programme is being carried out in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey.

These and a number of other sponsored loggers were placed on the legs of 30 breeding colour-banded Wandering and 20 Great-headed Albatrosses, both biennial breeders, in the summer of 2001/02. After a necessary long wait while the birds were away from the island on their 'sabbatical year', and were thus not seen in the 2002/03 breeding season, the two birds, one of each species, have now been found back at their nest sites this austral summer and their loggers recovered. Nearly all (34 of 40) loggers recovered to date have had their data down-loaded, and the task is now to interpret the tracks and deduce where the two ACAP and the other birds spent their non-breeding year.

Grateful thanks are expressed to the three governments for support of South African research on albatrosses at Marion Island.

John Cooper and Peter Ryan

University of Cape Town

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