Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

The European Commission adopts a Plan of Action - Seabirds that will help conserve threatened shearwaters

The European Commission late last week proposed to the European Parliament and Council an Action Plan (EU-PoA) to address the problem of incidental catches of seabirds in fishing gears.

"The Action Plan, over 10 years in the making, sets up a management framework to minimise seabird bycatch to the lowest levels practically possible.  It focuses on long line and static net fisheries where seabird bycatch are known to be highest, although other gears such as trawls and purse seines are also covered by the plan.  It entails a wide range of elements under 30 recommended actions that are a combination of binding and non-binding measures.  The rules will apply to European Union fishing vessels inside and outside EU waters as well as non-EU vessels operating in EU waters" (click here).

The EU-PoA is aimed to be consistent with the framework of the International Plan of Action for Reducing the Incidental Catches of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries (IPOA-Seabirds) as adopted in 1999 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Committee on Fisheries (COFI).

The International Council for the Exploration of Sea (ICES) Working Group on Seabird Ecology (WGSE) has estimated that more than 200 000 seabirds die every year as a result of contact with the EU fishing fleet in EU and non-EU waters.  Species affected in EU waters include the ACAP-listed and Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus and the recently upgraded Vulnerable Yelkouan Shearwater P. yelkouan, as well as four other shearwater species (Sooty P. griseus (Near Threatened), Great P. gravis, Manx P. puffinus and Cory's/Scopoli's Calonectris diomedea (sensu lato).

great_shearwater_john_graham
Great Shearwaters are reported to be killed in large numbers ("tens of thousands annually")
by longliners fishing for hake off south-west Ireland
Photograph by John Graham

"The plan's 30 recommended actions are a combination of binding and non-binding measures. Specific short-term actions include:

  • more rapid implementation of fisheries management measures to protect seabirds within Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated under the Birds Directive;
  • undertaking more extensive monitoring of fisheries where information on seabird bycatch is lacking or uncertain;
  • implementing proven mitigation measures (such as the use of bird-scaring lines and acoustic deterrents or the use of weighted lines) in long line fisheries in EU and non-EU waters where bycatch is highest;
  • and instigating research into the development of practical and efficient mitigation measures particularly in static net fisheries."

Click here to access the full text of the EU Action Plan for Reducing Incidental Catches of Seabirds in Fishing Gears.

For an NGO view of the EU-PoA click here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 November 2012