Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission makes progress towards best practice in its recommended mitigation measures for albatrosses and petrels

At the Seventh Meeting of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission's (IOTC) Working Party on Ecosystems and Bycatch (WPEB) held last month in the Maldives (click here) significant progress was achieved in furthering seabird conservation.

The Working Party has put forward recommendations to amend Resolution 10/06 On reducing the incidental bycatch of seabirds in longline fisheries to bring it into line with best practice as presented to the meetings in documents from several delegations attending the meeting, including those of Japan and the Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels.

If this recommendation is accepted, together with the recommendation to remove blue-dyed squid bait, line shooters and offal discharge control from the existing measure, the 'two column' approach used in IOTC Resolution 10/06 would be abandoned in favour of an approach that specifies only three measures (bird-scaring lines, line weighting and night setting) to be applied in areas of seabird interaction risk.

The WPEB recommended that line weighting should be seen as an adaptive management response to the seabird bycatch problem.  Continued refinement of line-weighting configurations (e.g. mass, number and position of weights and materials) through controlled research and application in fisheries was considered highly desirable to find configurations that are most safe, practical and effective.  The recommended regimes should be implemented in working fisheries, monitored through observer programmes, and reviewed and modified if found to be inadequate in reducing bycatch to acceptable levels.

The WPEB also recommended that targeted observer effort be deployed in specific fisheries where high seabird bycatch is known or suspected, and that the Scientific Committee take note that the current area of application for seabird bycatch mitigation measures was supported by the available evidence and need not be revised.

These recommendations of the WPEB now need to be endorsed by the IOTC Scientific Committee when it meets in December next month and then enacted upon by the Commission when it meets in April next year.

Click here for the final report of IOTC-WPEB7.

ACAP was represented at the WPEB meeting by its Technical Advisor, Barry Baker, who is also Convenor of the ACAP Seabird Bycatch Working Group (SBWG) and by Dr Henri Weimerskirch (France), who is also a member of ACAP's SBWG.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer,8 November 2011