Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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The USA publishes a progress report on the implementation of its National Plan of Action – Seabirds

ACAP's Seabird Bycatch Working Group was informed at its meeting last week in Uruguay that the United States had published earlier this year a report on the implementation of its National Plan of Action for Reducing the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries (NPOA-Seabirds).

The report highlights advancements made by the United States toward the objectives of the 2001 U.S. NPOA-Seabirds.  Since 2001, the United States has improved research, outreach, education and domestic management of seabird bycatch, resulting in a significant decrease in seabird bycatch in its domestic fisheries.

The report’s Executive Summary follows:

“Implementation of the United States National Plan of Action for Reducing the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries highlights advancements made by the United States toward the objectives of the 2001 U.S. National Plan of Action for Reducing the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries (NPOA-Seabirds).  Since 2001, the United States has improved research, outreach and education on, and domestic management of incidental seabird catch, resulting in a significant decrease in seabird incidental catch in its domestic fisheries.

Interagency collaboration has been a large part of U.S. success in reducing the incidental catch of seabirds.  Three different agencies – the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Department of State – play roles in implementing the NPOA-Seabirds by seeking to reduce incidental catch through policy development and research, as well as a variety of domestic and international measures. These agencies have made great efforts to coordinate research and action on seabird incidental catch mitigation. Management measures taken by the United States include the introduction of comprehensive regulations for avoiding the incidental catch of seabirds in a number of domestic fisheries.  Such regulations have resulted in a halving of or even tenfold decrease in incidental catch numbers in certain fisheries.  Additionally, the United States actively supports the adoption of seabird management measures in international forums, and is pursuing accession of the Agreement to on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP).  Finally, the United States has implemented a number of outreach and educational tools to combat seabird bycatch by developing easy reference guides and manuals for fishermen and fisheries observers.

Despite the strides it has made in reducing incidental seabird catch in longline fisheries, the United States recognizes that there are further steps and initiatives it can take.  Among these include the recognition that while incidental catch may have decreased in longline fisheries, it is still an issue in gillnet and trawl fisheries. In addition to further research and interagency collaboration, the United States will strive to emphasize the importance of seabird populations in ecosystem-based management systems and continue to promote global seabird conservation through the adoption of international measures.”

Laysan Albatross and chick on Midway Atoll, photograph by Pete Leary

Selected Literature:

National Marine Fisheries Service 2001.  Final United States National Plan of Action for Reducing the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries.  Silver Spring: National Marine Fisheries Service.  126 pp.

NOAA Fisheries 2014.  Implementation of the U.S. National Plan of Action for Reducing the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries 2014.  [Silver Spring]: NOAA Fisheries  20 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 15 September 2014

Gough Island reckoned the highest priority for the eradication of its alien House Mice among United Kingdom’s overseas islands by a comparative review

Jeffrey Dawson (RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Sandy, United Kingdom) and colleagues have published in the journal Conservation Biology on prioritizing islands in the United Kingdom Overseas Territories for the eradication of invasive vertebrates.  Gough Island (World Heritage home of the ACAP-listed and Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena attacked by introduced House Mice Mus musculus) scores as the highest priority of over 2000 islands in 11 separate territories.

Three other islands supporting ACAP-listed species fall within the top 25 prioritized islands for alien vertebrate eradications: the main island of Tristan da Cunha (6th), South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)* (11th) and New Island, Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)* (16th).

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Invasive alien species are one of the primary threats to native biodiversity on islands worldwide.  Consequently, eradicating invasive species from islands has become a mainstream conservation practice.  Deciding which islands have the highest priority for eradication is of strategic importance to allocate limited resources to achieve maximum conservation benefit.  Previous island prioritizations focused either on a narrow set of native species or on a small geographic area.  We devised a prioritization approach that incorporates all threatened native terrestrial vertebrates and all invasive terrestrial vertebrates occurring on 11 U.K. overseas territories, which comprise over 2000 islands ranging from the sub-Antarctic to the tropics.  Our approach includes eradication feasibility and distinguishes between the potential and realistic conservation value of an eradication, which reflects the benefit that would accrue following eradication of either all invasive species or only those species for which eradication techniques currently exist.  We identified the top 25 priority islands for invasive species eradication that together would benefit extant populations of 155 native species including 45 globally threatened species.  The 5 most valuable islands included the 2 World Heritage islands Gough (South Atlantic) and Henderson (South Pacific) that feature unique seabird colonies, and Anegada, Little Cayman, and Guana Island in the Caribbean that feature a unique reptile fauna.  This prioritization can be rapidly repeated if new information or techniques become available, and the approach could be replicated elsewhere in the world.”

A female Tristan Albatross on its Gough nest, photograph by John Cooper

Reference:

Dawson, J., Oppel, S., Cuthbert, R.J., Holmes, N., Bird, J.P., Butchart, S.H.M., Spatz, D.R. & Tershy, B. 2014.  Prioritizing islands for the eradication of invasive vertebrates in the United Kingdom Overseas Territories.  Conservation Biology DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12347.

Click here and here for two popular articles on the published paper.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 14 September 2014

Asian high-seas fishing nation increases the number of required mitigation measures for its 1000 longliners with an updated National Plan of Action - Seabirds

At ACAP Meetings currently being held in Uruguay information was received that in June this year the Fisheries Agency of Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) had unveiled an updated National Plan of Action to reduce the incidental catch of seabirds in the nation’s longline tuna fisheries to protect albatrosses and petrels, replacing its first NPOA-Seabirds that was adopted in 2006 (click here).

“The agency said that, as one of the major tuna longline fisheries countries in the world, Taiwan has more than 1,000 longline vessels operating across three oceans that unintentionally affect seabird populations.  To reduce the bycatch of seabirds during fishing, the agency said that it developed the first edition of its National Plan of Action on Seabirds in 2006 in accordance with that adopted by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.  The agency updated its plan this year.

Fisheries Agency Director-General James Sha said that the agency has instructed fishing vessels [in higher latitudes] to install two “bird-scaring” lines since 2006, reducing seabird bycatch by 50 percent.  He said that the new edition of the action plan would also require vessels to select at least two of the three other chosen methods to further reduce incidents of seabird bycatch.  Apart from installation of bird-scaring lines, fishing vessels might install weighted branch lines or choose to set up baits at night” (click here).

Short-tailed Albatross, photograph by Hiroshi Hasegawa

With thanks to Jonathan Barrington and Mi Ae Kim for information.

Reference:

Fisheries Agency 2014.  National Plan of Action for Reducing Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Tuna Longline Fisheries.  Fisheries Agency, Council of Agriculture.  104 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 13 September 2014

Australia updates its Threat Abatement Plan for seabird mortality caused by longline fishing

ACAP's Seabird Bycatch Working Group heard at its sixth meeting yesterday in Uruguay that Australia has published its updated Threat Abatement Plan for the incidental catch (or bycatch) of seabirds during oceanic longline fishing operations, replacing an earlier version produced in 2006.

The plan has been developed by the Department of the Environment to continue to implement existing as well as new actions needed to abate the listed key threatening process of incidental catch of seabirds during oceanic longline fishing operations.  The plan identifies the research, management and other actions needed to reduce the impacts of longlining on affected seabird species, including ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels.

Mitigation measures required south of 25°S for pelagic tuna longliners include line weighting, use of at least one bird-scaring line and not discharging offal during line setting.  Information is also given on minimum levels of observer coverage required in Australian longline fisheries.

The plan’s summary follows:

“Oceanic longlining is a fishing method used to target pelagic and demersal finfish and shark species. This method involves setting one or more single mainlines containing many individual hooks on branch lines or snoods.  The mainline can either be anchored or drifting.  It can be oriented vertically or horizontally in the water column and vary considerably in length and number of hooks.  Longlining occurs in almost all Australian waters.

The adverse impact of longline fishing activities on seabirds was not fully realised until the 1980s.  The incidental catch (or bycatch) of seabirds during oceanic longline fishing operations was listed as a key threatening process on 24 July 1995.

Threat abatement plans for this key threatening process have been in place since 1998 with the current plan, Threat Abatement Plan 2014 for the incidental catch (or bycatch) of seabirds during longline fishing operations, made on 14 August 2014.  The ultimate aim of this plan is to achieve zero bycatch of seabirds from longline fishing in Commonwealth fisheries.

Considerable progress has been made under successive threat abatement plans to reduce the impact of oceanic longlining on seabirds.  This has been achieved through the combined efforts of the fishing industry, researchers and non-governmental stakeholders working with government to reduce seabird bycatch in longline fisheries in a feasible, effective and efficient way.  The prescriptions in this plan recognise this success and seek to further reduce the incidental capture of seabirds.

Threat abatement plans provide a national strategy to guide the activities of government, industry and research organisations in abating the impact of key threatening processes.  The content of a plan must provide for the research, management and other actions necessary to reduce the key threatening process to an acceptable level.  Content requirements and matters to be taken into consideration are outlined in s 271 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Protection Act 1999.  Accordingly, this plan, among other things, states the objective to be achieved; specifies the actions to achieve the objective; states the criteria to measure performance of the plan; identifies the organisations and persons involved in evaluating the performance of the plan; and identifies albatross and other seabird species affected by the key threatening process.  The plan is subject to review within five years.”

Shy Albatross on Albatross Island: endemic to Australia.  Photograph by Drew Lee

The SBWG will wrap up its three-day meeting today.  Next week the ACAP Advisory Committee will consider its report, along with that of the Population and Conservation Status Working Group.

Reference:

Commonwealth of Australia 2014.  Threat Abatement Plan 2014 for the Incidental Catch (or Bycatch) of Seabirds during Longline Fishing Operations.  Canberra: Department of the Environment.  34 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 14 September 2014

ACAP's Seabird Bycatch Group gets started in Punta del Este at its sixth meeting: fly-back injuries, sliding lead weights, lazy lines, hook pods and net chokes

 ACAP’s Seabird Bycatch Group (SBWG) started three days of deliberations at its Sixth Meeting in Punta de Este, Uruguay today, fortunately without yesterday’s storms when its sister body, the Population and Conservation Status Working Group (PaCSWG), completed its own two days of meetings (click here).  SBWG6 is being chaired by Anton Wolfaardt (Convenor, United Kingdom), assisted by Vice Convenors, Igor Debski (Department of Conservation, New Zealand) and Tatiana Neves (Projeto Albatroz, Brazil).

A full room with over 40 attendees from 11 Parties, including all the South American members of the Agreement, and several NGOs ensured full discussions of the first of no less than 58 meeting documents and information papers, facilitated by an excellent Spanish/English interpretation service.  A few of the day’s highlights follow.

An ACAP review of “fly-back” injuries sustained by fishers in the course of using weighted lines (as a mitigation measure) in pelagic longlining garnered fifteen incidents, from bruises to, sadly, three fatalities.  Use of sliding lead weights as developed in an Australian pelagic longline fishery has the potential to reduce the problem, one thought to be under-reported.

The meeting heard that “lazy line” usage that allows branch lines with baited hooks to trail behind the vessel during shallow-set longline hauling can cause albatross mortality in the North Pacific.  It was suggested it was best to knock bait off the hooks (said to be easier for fish than for squid) before trailing the branch lines to solve this problem.

The problem: a hooked White-chinned Petrel, photograph by Nicolas Gasco

Following a question it was stated that no entanglements were observed when deploying the Hook Pod now under development for pelagic longline fisheries due to its fast sink rate.  The pod’s primary purpose is to shield the baited hook from seabirds until it reaches a specific depth (click here).

Noting that trawling can also result in the death of albatrosses and petrels, the meeting heard of the Net Choke from New Zealand.  This device aims to reduce seabird mortality during hauling by restricting the mouth of the trawl net when it nears the surface using a noose that can be winched tight. The meeting then closed for the day, although several break-out groups continued into the evening.

Click here to access the various papers that report on the above (and other) issues under consideration by SBWG6.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 September 2014

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