Submission from Birdlife International
This submission concentrates on the
UK's input into three international fora: the United Nations Food
and Agriculture Organisation (FAO); the Agreement on the Conservation
of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP); and the Regional Fisheries
Management Organisations (RFMOs).
As a Member State of FAO, the UK
must meet its international obligations on behalf of its Overseas
Territories, as prescribed in the FAO International Plan of Action
The UK should also lead on the development
of a European Community Plan of Action, which should be initiated
as a matter of high priority, particularly given repeated assurances
by the European Commission that they intend to propose and legislate
for such a plan.
The UK is a critically important
Party to ACAP, which is currently largely dependent on voluntary
funds contributed by Parties in addition to budget contributions.
It is vital that through DEFRA, the UK continues to contribute
funds to ensure delivery of effective conservation action by ACAP.
The effectiveness of the UK's input
to ACAP would be greatly enhanced by the active engagement of
Defra Fisheries Division, in addition to the Defra Wildlife Division.
A range of steps should be taken
by the UK Government to increase the capacity and ability for
UK Overseas Territories (OTs) to participate fully in ACAP. These
include: investigation of the feasibility of an appropriate level
of fishery protection (patrols); part funding of an OTs coordination
post based in the Falklands Islands; and provision of facilities
and resources to enable remote OTs to participate fully in ACAP
related activities in the UK and overseas.
It is critical that the UK, as a
member of the top five RFMOs (in terms of overlap between seabird
distribution and longline fishing effort) attends and is proactive
at key meetings of relevant RFMO scientific committees and bycatch
working groups. Only by engaging pro-actively in this way will
the UK influence upcoming initiatives to address seabird bycatch
in key RFMOs.
The UK should include bycatch experts
within its RFMO delegations, and ensure the highest standard of
1. BirdLife International was formed in
1994, reconstituted from the International Council for Bird Preservation.
The organisation is a global Partnership of NGOs which work together
to achieve the shared mission "to conserve wild birds, their
habitats and global biodiversity, by working with people towards
sustainability in the use of natural resources". The NGOs
in 103 countries that form BirdLife International together represent
the leading global network focusing on the conservation of birds
and biodiversity. The Partnership is the world's foremost scientific
authority on birds, and the network provides information on conservation
and development issues to many governmental and inter-governmental
2. Given that seabirds often travel vast
distances across the oceans, including the high seas, their protection
cannot be addressed by national measures alone. To address the
need for a coordinated international approach to seabird conservation,
in 1997 BirdLife International established the BirdLife Global
Seabird Programme. While the programme addresses a broad range
of issues, its main coordinated focus to date, highlighted by
BirdLife's "Save the Albatross" Campaign, is seabird
mortality caused by longline and other fisheries. In broad terms,
the programme focuses on local, regional and international advocacy
to raise awareness of the issue within the fishing industry and
wider community and to facilitate implementation of onboard mitigation
measures to reduce the level of seabird mortality.
3. Seabirds are killed as bycatch in fisheries
around the world, but the UK has a critical role to play in the
conservation of albatrosses and petrels, as the UK Overseas Territories
(OTs) of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich
Islands, and Tristan da Cunha are collectively home to more than
30% of the world's albatross populations. This includes seven
species, including two endemic to Tristan da Cunha. Some albatross
populations in South Atlantic OTs are the most rapidly declining
in the world.
4. Bycatch of seabirds in longline fisheries
occurs when birds, attracted to the bait set on the longline hooks,
get caught on those hooks, dragged underwater and drowned. Each
year, more than a billion hooks are set by the world's longline
fleets, killing at least 300,000 seabirds, including about 100,000
5. Largely as a result of this mortality,
the albatross family (Diomedeidae) has the highest proportion
of species under threat of global extinction of any bird family.
Currently, 19 of 21 species are classified as globally threatened,
seven of which are listed as Endangered and two as Critically
Endangered. The proportion of albatross species threatened with
extinction increased from around 30%-90% between 1994 and 2004.
The ecology of albatrosses (a decade to reach breeding age and
infrequent successful breeding thereafter) renders them particularly
susceptible to increased adult mortality. The level of albatross
mortality in both regulated and unregulated longline fisheries
is causing dramatic declines in breeding populations. This poses
the risk that populations of several of these iconic species will
become extinct in the near future, unless international policy
instruments translate into concerted action, in particular the
widespread adoption of proven mitigation measures by the world's
longline fishing fleets.
6. In 1996, an IUCN-The World Conservation
Union resolution called for concerted action to reduce seabird
mortality in fisheries. This led to the development of an FAO
International Plan of Action for Reducing Incidental Catch of
Seabirds in Longline Fisheries (IPOA-Seabirds), formally adopted
by the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) in February 1999. As
a voluntary instrument, the IPOA sets forth a range of actions
that states [b1]should take in order to reduce seabird mortality,
primarily through each developing a National Plan of Action-Seabirds
7. The Falkland Islands is the only UK OT
to have an adopted NPOA-Seabirds. The development of this plan
was funded by the RSPB and undertaken by Falklands Conservation
(the BirdLife Partner in the Falkland Islands). BirdLife is currently
negotiating with the Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich
Islands to conduct a FAO Assessment (as prescribed by IPOA-Seabirds)
of the three South Georgia fisheries (Patagonian toothfish, icefish
and krill) to determine the need for an NPOA-Seabirds.
8. The UK also has an obligation as a member
of the European Union to support the development of a European
Community Plan of Action -Seabirds (a generic NPOA-S covering
the range of longline fisheries deployed by EU Member States).
This would address the issue of seabird bycatch in Community Waters
and external waters (other than UK OTs) where the UK has interests.
The European Commission first mooted such a plan in 1999, but
has since failed to galvanise the political will to take the issue
forward, despite including this goal in annual workplans and strategies
on a number of occasions.
9. The UK can and should lend powerful support
to the development of such a plan: UK fisheries and wildlife agencies
have extensive experience in developing and implementing ecosystem-based
management expertise in fisheries managed by the Convention for
the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
This experience, particularly in the South-West Atlantic, means
that they are well placed to lead in the development of a European
Community Plan of Action-Seabirds for both their domestic and
external (distant water) fleets. This should be undertaken as
a matter of high priority, particularly given repeated commitment
by the EU to develop such a plan.
10. International concern over the plight
of the albatross led to the negotiation of the Agreement on the
Conservation of Albatross and Petrels (ACAP), which came into
force in 2004. This agreement was drafted under the auspices of
the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) to provide an integrated
approach to conserving Southern Hemisphere albatrosses and petrels.
The species to which ACAP applies currently include all Southern
Hemisphere albatrosses and seven species of petrel.
11. The stated objective of ACAP is to achieve
and maintain a favourable conservation status for Southern Hemisphere
albatrosses and petrels by addressing both land and at-sea based
threats. The success of the Agreement will be largely dependent
on the number of coastal states (ie, those with breeding populations
of albatrosses and petrels) and key longline fishing states that
accede to the Agreement and act on it.
12. Currently, 10 countries have ratified
the agreement: Argentina; Australia; Chile; Ecuador; France; New
Zealand; Peru; South Africa; Spain; and the United Kingdom (on
behalf of metropolitan UK, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia
and South Sandwich Islands and British Antarctic Territory). Of
these, only Spain is a solely "fishing" state, without
jurisdiction over any land-based populations of ACAP species.
Brazil has signed the agreement and indicated that it will ratify
in the near future.
13. Through the input of the British Antarctic
Survey (BAS), Defra (and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee
(JNCC)) and FCO (Polar Regions), the UK has played a critical
role in influencing and shaping the scientific agenda of ACAP.
This is particularly evident in the development of the work programme
(through the first ACAP Science meeting, chaired by Prof. John
Croxall, BAS establishment of Working Groups, formulation of key
resolutions, and through a member of the UK delegation (Dr. Mark
Tasker, JNCC) being appointed the inaugural Chair of the Agreement's
Advisory Committee, which is the scientific and technical body
of the Agreement).
14. In addition to its budget contributions,
over the last three years the UK has contributed considerable
voluntary funds (2005-£70,000, 2006-£10,000 and a commitment
to contribute a further £50,000 in 2007) to help deliver
action on the early stages of the Agreement's work programme,
and also to sponsor developing country delegates to attend meetings.
These contributions have been critical in helping the fledgling
Agreement to deliver conservation action and engage with Parties,
Signatories and Range States, during the early stages of the Agreement
when budget limitations could have greatly restricted its impact.
15. BirdLife commends these contributions,
and feels strongly that continued contributions on this scale
are essential to the successful delivery and expansion of the
Agreement's work programme, particularly as the focus shifts from
land-based issues to encompass at-sea threats (primarily bycatch)
facing albatrosses and petrels.
16. To maximise the influence and effectiveness
of the UK's input into the agreement, it is essential that, in
addition to the current engagement of Defra Wildlife Division,
Defra Fisheries becomes actively involved in the Agreement. The
input of the Fisheries Division will be critical to addressing
the complex issues surrounding fisheries-related seabird mortality.
17. UK Overseas Territories
A meeting (funded through the FCO Overseas Territories
Environment Programme) of representatives of all relevant OT Governments,
NGOs and other stakeholders was held in the Falkland Islands in
March 2005, focusing on the responsibilities and obligations of
parties to ACAP, and seeking to identify priorities for the management
and conservation of albatrosses and petrels in South Atlantic
18. Among the key priorities agreed in the
report of the meeting was a recognition that Illegal Unreported
and Unregulated (IUU) fishing is of paramount importance for OTs,
particularly Tristan da Cunha, where no effective fishery protection
regime exists, and without which there is potential for substantial
bycatch of ACAP listed species by IUU vessels. An appropriate
fisheries protection regime is also essential to protect the fish
stocks of the region and to support the economy of these islands
through increased licence revenue from regulated fisheries. The
UK government should investigate the feasibility of an appropriate
level of fishery protection (patrols) to ensure that Tristan seabirds
and fish stocks are protected and to help support the economy
of the islands.
19. The report also advocated that Defra,
as the UK lead department for ACAP, must become proactive in engaging
all stakeholders for OTs, not least to ensure that realistic timeframes
are established for data and information transfer and timely input
into UK ACAP preparation meetings.
20. The need for a full-time post based
in an Atlantic Overseas Territory (and managed by JNCC, UK), most
likely the Falkland Islands, was another priority of the report.
This would coordinate communications and input (including data
collection and transmission) of the Atlantic OTs into ACAP processes
21. BirdLife International see this coordination
post as one of the highest priorities for the UK, to ensure that
it continues to lead the way with the scope and quality of input
into the Agreement. BirdLife understands that Defra, the FCO and
JNCC have committed financial resources to establish this post
in the near future, and we hope to hear definitive confirmation
of this soon.
22. Finally, the report recognised the importance
of effective communication between the OTs to ensure knowledge
exchange and efficient collation and transfer of data and information
to feed into ACAP processes and initiatives. This is particularly
critical in the case of Tristan da Cunha, where only a limited
and unreliable channel of communication exists.
23. Regional Fisheries Management Organisations
(RFMOs) are the bodies responsible for the management of high
seas fisheries and highly migratory fish stocks. As such, they
have a central role to play in the conservation of albatross and
petrel species, managing a number of the fisheries that are known,
or likely, to be killing significant numbers of albatrosses and
petrels each year.
24. On behalf of Atlantic OTs, the UK is
a member of three of the top five RFMOs (CCAMLR, the Indian Ocean
Tuna Commission (IOTC) and the International Commission for the
Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)), in terms of the overlap
between their areas of jurisdiction and albatross and petrel distribution.
The UK is also, through the EU, a member of the remaining top
two RFMOs (the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and
the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna).
As such, the UK has a key role to play in the management of UK
flagged vessels fishing in these waters and in shaping the agenda
of the EU's position within these RFMOs.
25. The role of UK scientists, fisheries
managers and fishermen is internationally recognised as being
critical in reducing seabird bycatch in the CCAMLR area, which
cover Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters. CCAMLR has pioneered
a suite of measures to reduce seabird bycatch, including technical
measures (eg night setting, streamer lines, line weighting) and
operational measures (eg closed seasons and 100% observer coverage)
that, when used in combination, have created a truly "seabird
friendly" fishery in some of the most critical areas for
threatened albatrosses and petrels.
26. As a result of implementing these measures,
in the 2006 fishing season not a single albatross was caught by
legal longline vessels operating in CCAMLR waters, a remarkable
achievement of international will and concerted action.
27. The UK recently announced funding of
£60,000 for an assessment of the impact on seabirds of longline
fishing within ICCAT waters. This will be a significant step toward
to further understanding and mitigating seabird by-catch in longline
fisheries in the Atlantic Ocean, which will assist in halting
the rapid decline of many albatross and petrel populations in
Atlantic OTs. It is hoped that this contribution by the UK will
also set an example that will stimulate similar assessment in
other key RFMOs.
28. It is now important that the achievements
of CCAMLR and the ICCAT assessment are replicated in other RFMOs,
as 84% of albatross distribution is outside CCAMLR waters. UK
representatives have attended IOTC and ICCAT scientific meetings
in 2006. The UK can further contribute to this end by continuing
to attend and be proactive at key meetings of relevant RFMO scientific
committees and bycatch working groups, by including bycatch experts
within its delegations and ensuring the highest standard of scientific
input. This will help the UK influence data collection protocols,
the development of observer programmes and information on the
spatial and temporal overlap of seabirds and fisheries.
29. BirdLife International would be happy
to provide the Committee with any further information required.