International Fishers Forum - Draft Communique
15 November 2000
Many of the world's leading fishing countries were represented at an International Fishers Forum in Auckland, 6-9 November, to exchange information and develop practical measures to minimise the accidental capture of seabirds in longline fishing operations. Countries attending were New Zealand, Australia, U.S.A.(including Hawaii and Alaska), U.K.(including the Falklands/Malvinas Islands), Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Japan, People's Republic of China, Indonesia, Taiwan, and South Africa. In addition to fishers and fishing company representatives, the meeting was also attended by fisheries scientists and gear technologists, biologists, and government representatives. The Forum was organised and hosted by the New Zealand Government's Department of Conservation and Ministry of Fisheries, in association with the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council.
Participants agreed that the accidental capture of albatrosses and petrels in longline fisheries was a very serious problem that has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of birds annually and has had significant impacts on the populations of some species over the past twenty years. Information presented at the Forum confirmed that albatrosses in particular are long-lived and slow-breeding species that cannot easily or quickly replace losses of adults from fisheries by-catch. Furthermore, many of the large seabirds migrate across entire ocean basins or may even circle the globe, and are therefore vulnerable to capture by the fishing operations of many countries, either in coastal waters or on the high seas. International co-operation is therefore essential to solving the problem.
It was agreed that several measures are available to mitigate this problem, which can reduce by-catch to sustainable levels without significantly reducing the profitability of longline fishing operations. Simple steps such as setting lines at night, weighting the lines to achieve rapid sinking of baited hooks below the diving range of birds and the deployment of streamer (bird-scaring) lines during the setting and retrieval of fishing lines can greatly reduce the incidence of seabird by-catch. A combination of mitigation measures will be most effective in reducing seabird mortalities. Other mitigation measures that may further reduce by-catch include the use of dyed baits, underwater setting devices, bait casting machines, artificial baits and the retention of recovered baits to avoid attracting birds to fishing vessels recovering their gear. It was agreed that further research into these measures was necessary.
Illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing was identified as an extremely serious problem. IUU fishers are suspected of being responsible for the majority of seabird deaths in the Southern Ocean in recent years. Forum participants expressed their strong support for efforts being made by, amongst others, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the International Maritime Organisation, and called on governments to take all necessary measures to implement an effective ban on IUU fishing.
There was unanimous agreement on the need for effective education campaigns to inform all longline fishers of the biology, life history and population dynamics of albatrosses and petrels, the potential threat posed by longline fishing operations and the mitigation measures available. It was agreed that the provision of relevant materials to fleets that had no educational programme was a priority.
Considerable attention was also given to the use of modelling as a tool to better define the likely impacts of by-catch on seabird populations, especially in the absence of adequate observer programmes. Modellers stressed that because albatross are long-lived and slow-reproducing species, they are especially vulnerable to by-catch, even at low rates. Population declines may take some years to detect and recovery may take many years, even in the complete absence of further by-catch. Endangered species of seabirds may require closer attention than more abundant species. Better (and more integrated) data on the distribution of seabirds and fishing effort in space and time is an urgent requirement, both to better inform fishers and also to develop management responses.
For all fisheries, adequate observer programmes are necessary to provide reliable estimates of by-catch rates of various bird species, and to identify the times and locations of interactions. Observer programmes can validate data collection schemes (such as logbook programmes) involving the provision of information by fishers. These need to be complemented by monitoring programmes on seabird breeding colonies, which should provide data on age at first reproduction and survival rates. The remote location of many breeding colonies and the long time series required inevitably means that these will be expensive programmes, and similar research protocols are essential to maximise the opportunities for international collaboration and team work.
Participants agreed to collaborate in the development of voluntary codes of practice, tailored to meet the requirements of individual fisheries and vessel sizes. It was also agreed that the results of research programmes to mitigate seabird by-catch would be shared, and would also be reported to the relevant government or regional fisheries agencies. It was also agreed that details of the Forum's deliberations and conclusions would be communicated to national governments, and to FAO, with a strong recommendation that a report should be submitted to the February 2001 meeting of FAO's Committee on Fisheries. Regional economic groupings (such as APEC) and the Global Environmental Facility of the World Bank were identified as possible funding sources to facilitate further progress towards the reduction of seabird by-catch in longline fishing operations.
For further information please contact:
Mike Donoghue, DoC, Tel. 021 870 310