Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

South Africa’s seabird bycatch mitigation measures get reviewed for the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission

Dominic Rollinson (FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town, South Africa) and colleagues submitted a meeting document to the 19th Session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission’s Scientific Committee, held recently in the Seychelles.  The document reviews seabird bycatch mitigation measures, including experimental work, within South Africa’s tuna longline fishery.

The document’s abstract follows:

“Both foreign and domestic pelagic longline fleets operate in South Africa’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and adjacent international waters. Roughly 360 birds are killed each year by the longline fleets operating off South Africa; this includes bycatch from observed Japanese vessels, observed South African vessels and extrapolations of observed to unobserved South African vessels, between 2010 and 2013. This rate was even higher for the entire period between and 2013 when seabird bycatch averaged c. 450 birds per year. Permit conditions apply equally to domestic and foreign longline vessels, and are aligned with IOTC Resolution 12/06. Specifically, vessels must use two of three measures: bird-scaring lines, night setting or line-weighting. The domestic fleet typically uses 60-80 g swivels and sets exclusively at night, therefore they seldom use bird-scaring lines. Japanese-flagged vessels employ line weighting (60 g within 2.8 m of the hook) and bird-scaring lines, with most sets partially conducted at night and part during daylight (in international waters only). Encouragingly, concurrent with 100% observer coverage, significant reductions in seabird bycatch rates have occurred in this fleet after 2007, and the resultant bycatch rates now approximate the national target (0.05 birds per 1000 hooks). South Africa has also encouraged significant research into new or improved seabird bycatch mitigation options. These include research into sliding leads, hook pods and smart tuna hooks. Through the FAO’s Common Oceans Tuna Project (or ABNJ project), South Africa is piloting port-based outreach to foreign-flagged tuna longline vessels that offload, refuel or revictual in Cape Town harbor. The outreach is specifically to provide information to skippers on Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO) regulations and to explain available bycatch mitigation options.”

A Black-browed Albatross succumbs to a longline hook and drowns, photograph by Graham Robertson 


Rollinson, D.P., Wanless, R.M., Makhado, A.B. & Crawford, R.J.M. 2016.  A review of seabird bycatch mitigation measures, including experimental work, within South Africa’s tuna longline fisheryIOTC-2016-SC19-13 Rev_1.  9 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 28 December 2016