Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Helping threatened shearwaters: the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean moves towards adopting seabird mitigation measures

The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) following a proposal from the European Union adopted at its 35th Session held in Rome, Italy in May this year Recommendation GFCM/35/2011/3 on Reducing Incidental By-catch of Seabirds in Fisheries in the GFCM Competence Area.

Whereas the recommendation does not specify any mandatory mitigation measures it does state that "Contracting Parties and Cooperating non-contracting Parties of GFCM (CPCs) should develop mechanisms to ensure that incidental taking of seabirds in fishing activities is monitored, recorded and kept to the lowest level as possible in particular for species under the Annex II of the SPA/BD protocol of the Barcelona Convention."

It further requests that advice be obtained on the technical details, feasibility, likely effectiveness and side effects of the following options for the mitigation of seabird by-catch in Mediterranean fisheries:

Setting of demersal and/or pelagic longlines only at night (one hour after dusk and one hour before dawn);

Prohibition to set demersal and/or pelagic longlines one hour after dawn till noon;

Use of bird-scaring lines and wrap [sic, assume "warp" meant] scares, in case of longlines setting during the day;

Setting of a minimum bait weight

Use of only thawed baits conditioning instead of frozen baits;

Discards and excess bait shall not be rejected at sea during setting or hauling operations;

Setting of a minimum distance to set bottom-set nets from sea-birds breeding areas.

The adoption of mitigation measures in Mediterranean longline fisheries should help conserve the three shearwater species that breed within the region.  They are the Critically Endangered (and ACAP candidate) Balearic Puffinus mauretanicus, Yelkouan P. yelkouan and Cory's Calonectris diomedea.

These three taxa are listed on Annex II of the Barcelona Convention (Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean) Protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean.

Click here to access the ACAP Species Assessment (as AC6 Doc 31) for the Balearic Shearwater, also endemic to the Mediterranean, which is expected to be listed as an ACAP Species at the Fourth Session of the Meeting of Parties, to be held in Lima, Peru in April next year.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 November 2011