ICCAT committee recommends tightening its seabird bycatch recommendation

The full report of the October 2009 meeting of ICCAT's (International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) held in Madrid, Spain is now available at http://www.iccat.int/Documents/Meetings/Docs/2009-SCRS_ENG.pdf.  The following information giving advice to ICCAT's Commission has been adapted from the SCRS report.

The Recommendation by ICCAT on Reducing Incidental By-Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries (Rec. 07-00) incorporates measures intended to reduce seabird by-catch, focused on the southern hemisphere.  However, it is of particular concern that no bird-scaring lines are required for swordfish fishing using night setting as an alternative. This concern is because there is clear empirical evidence from night-time fishing operations that a number of seabird species are vulnerable to by-catch during periods around full moon and still others have high vulnerability during dark nights.

Considering the wide-ranging interactions between seabirds and pelagic longline fisheries in the Convention Area, including species of critical conservation concern in areas north of 20ºS latitude, and in the absence of information showing that there is no significant seabird interactions with Contracting Parties' national pelagic longline fisheries, the Commission should, at a minimum, require Contracting Parties to use tori (bird-scaring) lines in combination with at least one other effective mitigation measure throughout the Convention area, until such time that it can be demonstrated through direct observation of the longline fisheries, that bycatch levels are of insignificant magnitude for seabird populations. The Commission should also encourage research into increasing the efficacy of existing mitigation measures and development of additional measures, which, upon demonstrating proof of concept, should be adopted by Contracting Parties. The Commission should also work towards harmonizing these measures with the other tuna RFMOs to the degree possible.

The ICCAT Commission has now met in Recife, Brazil and information on its decision in relation to seabird bycatch will be published on the ACAP web site once it comes available.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 November 2009

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