Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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Asian high-seas fishing nation increases the number of required mitigation measures for its 1000 longliners with an updated National Plan of Action - Seabirds

At ACAP Meetings currently being held in Uruguay information was received that in June this year the Fisheries Agency of Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) had unveiled an updated National Plan of Action to reduce the incidental catch of seabirds in the nation’s longline tuna fisheries to protect albatrosses and petrels, replacing its first NPOA-Seabirds that was adopted in 2006 (click here).

“The agency said that, as one of the major tuna longline fisheries countries in the world, Taiwan has more than 1,000 longline vessels operating across three oceans that unintentionally affect seabird populations.  To reduce the bycatch of seabirds during fishing, the agency said that it developed the first edition of its National Plan of Action on Seabirds in 2006 in accordance with that adopted by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.  The agency updated its plan this year.

Fisheries Agency Director-General James Sha said that the agency has instructed fishing vessels [in higher latitudes] to install two “bird-scaring” lines since 2006, reducing seabird bycatch by 50 percent.  He said that the new edition of the action plan would also require vessels to select at least two of the three other chosen methods to further reduce incidents of seabird bycatch.  Apart from installation of bird-scaring lines, fishing vessels might install weighted branch lines or choose to set up baits at night” (click here).

Short-tailed Albatross, photograph by Hiroshi Hasegawa

With thanks to Jonathan Barrington and Mi Ae Kim for information.

Reference:

Fisheries Agency 2014.  National Plan of Action for Reducing Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Tuna Longline Fisheries.  Fisheries Agency, Council of Agriculture.  104 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 13 September 2014

Australia updates its Threat Abatement Plan for seabird mortality caused by longline fishing

ACAP's Seabird Bycatch Working Group heard at its sixth meeting yesterday in Uruguay that Australia has published its updated Threat Abatement Plan for the incidental catch (or bycatch) of seabirds during oceanic longline fishing operations, replacing an earlier version produced in 2006.

The plan has been developed by the Department of the Environment to continue to implement existing as well as new actions needed to abate the listed key threatening process of incidental catch of seabirds during oceanic longline fishing operations.  The plan identifies the research, management and other actions needed to reduce the impacts of longlining on affected seabird species, including ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels.

Mitigation measures required south of 25°S for pelagic tuna longliners include line weighting, use of at least one bird-scaring line and not discharging offal during line setting.  Information is also given on minimum levels of observer coverage required in Australian longline fisheries.

The plan’s summary follows:

“Oceanic longlining is a fishing method used to target pelagic and demersal finfish and shark species. This method involves setting one or more single mainlines containing many individual hooks on branch lines or snoods.  The mainline can either be anchored or drifting.  It can be oriented vertically or horizontally in the water column and vary considerably in length and number of hooks.  Longlining occurs in almost all Australian waters.

The adverse impact of longline fishing activities on seabirds was not fully realised until the 1980s.  The incidental catch (or bycatch) of seabirds during oceanic longline fishing operations was listed as a key threatening process on 24 July 1995.

Threat abatement plans for this key threatening process have been in place since 1998 with the current plan, Threat Abatement Plan 2014 for the incidental catch (or bycatch) of seabirds during longline fishing operations, made on 14 August 2014.  The ultimate aim of this plan is to achieve zero bycatch of seabirds from longline fishing in Commonwealth fisheries.

Considerable progress has been made under successive threat abatement plans to reduce the impact of oceanic longlining on seabirds.  This has been achieved through the combined efforts of the fishing industry, researchers and non-governmental stakeholders working with government to reduce seabird bycatch in longline fisheries in a feasible, effective and efficient way.  The prescriptions in this plan recognise this success and seek to further reduce the incidental capture of seabirds.

Threat abatement plans provide a national strategy to guide the activities of government, industry and research organisations in abating the impact of key threatening processes.  The content of a plan must provide for the research, management and other actions necessary to reduce the key threatening process to an acceptable level.  Content requirements and matters to be taken into consideration are outlined in s 271 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Protection Act 1999.  Accordingly, this plan, among other things, states the objective to be achieved; specifies the actions to achieve the objective; states the criteria to measure performance of the plan; identifies the organisations and persons involved in evaluating the performance of the plan; and identifies albatross and other seabird species affected by the key threatening process.  The plan is subject to review within five years.”

Shy Albatross on Albatross Island: endemic to Australia.  Photograph by Drew Lee

The SBWG will wrap up its three-day meeting today.  Next week the ACAP Advisory Committee will consider its report, along with that of the Population and Conservation Status Working Group.

Reference:

Commonwealth of Australia 2014.  Threat Abatement Plan 2014 for the Incidental Catch (or Bycatch) of Seabirds during Longline Fishing Operations.  Canberra: Department of the Environment.  34 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 14 September 2014

ACAP's Seabird Bycatch Group gets started in Punta del Este at its sixth meeting: fly-back injuries, sliding lead weights, lazy lines, hook pods and net chokes

 ACAP’s Seabird Bycatch Group (SBWG) started three days of deliberations at its Sixth Meeting in Punta de Este, Uruguay today, fortunately without yesterday’s storms when its sister body, the Population and Conservation Status Working Group (PaCSWG), completed its own two days of meetings (click here).  SBWG6 is being chaired by Anton Wolfaardt (Convenor, United Kingdom), assisted by Vice Convenors, Igor Debski (Department of Conservation, New Zealand) and Tatiana Neves (Projeto Albatroz, Brazil).

A full room with over 40 attendees from 11 Parties, including all the South American members of the Agreement, and several NGOs ensured full discussions of the first of no less than 58 meeting documents and information papers, facilitated by an excellent Spanish/English interpretation service.  A few of the day’s highlights follow.

An ACAP review of “fly-back” injuries sustained by fishers in the course of using weighted lines (as a mitigation measure) in pelagic longlining garnered fifteen incidents, from bruises to, sadly, three fatalities.  Use of sliding lead weights as developed in an Australian pelagic longline fishery has the potential to reduce the problem, one thought to be under-reported.

The meeting heard that “lazy line” usage that allows branch lines with baited hooks to trail behind the vessel during shallow-set longline hauling can cause albatross mortality in the North Pacific.  It was suggested it was best to knock bait off the hooks (said to be easier for fish than for squid) before trailing the branch lines to solve this problem.

The problem: a hooked White-chinned Petrel, photograph by Nicolas Gasco

Following a question it was stated that no entanglements were observed when deploying the Hook Pod now under development for pelagic longline fisheries due to its fast sink rate.  The pod’s primary purpose is to shield the baited hook from seabirds until it reaches a specific depth (click here).

Noting that trawling can also result in the death of albatrosses and petrels, the meeting heard of the Net Choke from New Zealand.  This device aims to reduce seabird mortality during hauling by restricting the mouth of the trawl net when it nears the surface using a noose that can be winched tight. The meeting then closed for the day, although several break-out groups continued into the evening.

Click here to access the various papers that report on the above (and other) issues under consideration by SBWG6.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 September 2014

ACAP’s Population and Conservation Status Working Group completes its 2014 meeting: lasers and eyeballs, hook removal guidelines and criteria for identifying candidate species for listing

ACAP’s Population and Conservation Status Working Group (PaCSWG) closed its meeting yesterday afternoon after two days of fruitful discussions in Uruguay.  Not put off by regular thunder claps, lightning and a cloud burst during the day, with consequent intermittent down times of the Internet stopping access to documents, the meeting considered a wide range of subjects.  Highlights follow.

The meeting considered a document (SBWG6 Inf 23) which described the use of a powerful laser to deter birds from longlines.  The working group discussed methods that might help determine if the use of a laser could damage the retinas of albatrosses and petrels.  It was noted that the collection of eyes from birds found dead at colonies or obtained as bycatch would help a proposed physiological study in the United States to address the problem.

A long discussion ensued on the ranking criteria previously developed by ACAP to identify candidate species for inclusion within the Agreement.  It was noted the rankings would change when species are split or lumped.  Additionally, it was confirmed that the criteria were guidelines only and the nomination of new species remained the prerogative of Parties to the Agreement.

Other matters discussed or noted were the forthcoming ACAP guide to the identification of bycaught seabirds, which includes advice on collection of samples for genetic analysis, recently produced ACAP conservation guideline for hook removal from seabirds, as well as updates to existing conservation guidelines on translocation and on biosecurity (click here).

Hook removal guide

The working group then agreed a work plan which lists the many tasks that it hopes to achieve over the next few years, from collection and collation of data on population trends, distribution and threats, to identifying data gaps and priorities for management that should improve both our understanding and the conservation of these highly threatened species.

Click here for a report on the first day of PaCSWG’s second meeting.

Today the ACAP Seabird Bycatch Working Group (SBWG) will start its three-day meeting, the sixth it has held, with Anton Wolfaardt (United Kingdom) in the Chair.

Selected Literature:

Cooper, J. & Baker, G.B. 2008. Identifying candidate species for inclusion within the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels.  Marine Ornithology 36: 1-8 & appendices.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 September 2014

ACAP’s Population and Conservation Working Group has a successful first day in Uruguay: robot camera, pathogen review, status and trends, the serious plight of Gough’s Tristan Albatrosses and more

ACAP’s Population and Conservation Status Working Group (PaCSWG) started its second meeting yesterday at the Barradas Hotel in the resort town of Punta del Este, Uruguay.  The meeting was chaired by Richard Phillips (Convenor, United Kingdom) aided by Flavio Quintana (Vice Convenor, Argentina) and Wiesława Misiak (ACAP Science Officer).

With nearly 30 participants in the room, useful discussions were held on the first seven items in the meeting’s agenda.  Some highlights of the discussion follow.

The working group heard of Australia’s development of high resolution, time-efficient, remote camera technology – ‘Gigapan’ that enables monitoring of colony-wide breeding behaviour from a proximal vantage point (PaCSWG2 Inf 06).  This technology is based on NASA's Mars Rover camera systems, and allows analysis of combined, multiple megapixel images in a gigapixel format.  The robotic camera has been tested in a Shy Albatross Thalassarche cauta colony on Albatross Island off north-west Tasmania.

Shy Albatrosses on Albatross Island, photograph by Rachael Alderman

The working group agreed to submit a recommendation to the Eighth Meeting of the ACAP Advisory Committee, to be held in Punta del Este next week, that it takes note of the deleterious effects of Gough’s “killer” House Mice Mus musculus on the island’s Critically Endangered Tristan Albatrosses Diomedea dabbenena (and other seabirds) and recommends that action be taken to eradicate them.

Jonathan Barrington (Australian Antarctic Division) reported on the plans to review and update Australia’s National Recovery Plan for Threatened Albatrosses and Giant Petrels by 2016.

The meeting took note of progress updating a review of pathogens in ACAP species (PaCSWG2 Doc 04) with inputs by Marcela Uhart of the University of Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine.

Other matters discussed by the PaCSWG include updates to the population trends of the 30 ACAP-listed species (some up, but most either down or currently stable), management of land-based threats, and identifying key gaps in at-sea tracking data, especially of juveniles and immatures.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 September 2014