S.Georgia : SG Sets Good Example to Damaging Long-line Fisheries
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 30.07.2011 (Article Archived on 13.08.2011)
More than 333,000 seabirds a year are still being killed as a result of global long-line fishing according to a study by the RSPB and Bird Life International.
More than 333,000 seabirds a year are still being killed as a result of global long-line fishing according to a study by the RSPB and Bird Life International. The study, published on June 8th in the journal 'Endangered Species Research', is the first to estimate the global effect of long-lining as opposed to looking at individual fisheries. It shows that despite successes in some fisheries reducing bird by-catch, much more still needs to be done to ensure ecologically responsible fishing globally.
Scientists have linked declines of albatrosses and other seabirds with ‘incidental catch’ in longline fisheries since the 1980s. The birds are caught on hooks attached to the long-lines and dragged underwater. A lack of data and awareness of some fisheries and their by-catch problems meant much of the bird mortality now highlighted was previously unknown. For instance a Spanish long-line fleet on the Gran Sol grounds off SW Ireland may be responsible for annually killing upwards of 50,000 birds, mostly shearwaters and fulmars, and a Japanese tuna fleet is estimated to be killing over 20,000 seabirds (mainly albatrosses) each year. Policy officer for the Global Seabird Programme and lead author of the new study, Dr Orea Anderson, said: “It is little wonder that so many of the affected seabird species are threatened with extinction - their slow rate of reproduction is simply incapable of compensating for losses on the scale this study has demonstrated.”
The RSPB highlights that great strides can be made to reduce bird by-catch by using mitigating measures and it holds up the South Georgia long-line fishery as a good example of how enforcement of strict regulations has resulted in substantial by-catch reductions (99%) in recent years. South Africa and Brazil have also achieved significant by-catch reductions by introducing mitigation measures.
RSPB and BirdLife International’s Global Seabird Programme are now calling on all fisheries management organisations and the fishing industry to protect seabirds through the use of simple, cost-effective mitigation measures that have been proven to reduce the threat of by-catch. Dr. Cleo Small, Senior Policy Officer for the Global Seabird Programme and co-author of the study, commented: “Using simple bird-scaring lines and weighting of hooks as they enter the water could dramatically reduce the number of seabirds being killed.”
Anton Wolfaardt is the ACAP (Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels) coordinator for the UK South Atlantic Overseas Territories. Commenting on the study in the Falkland Islands newspaper 'Penguin News' he says that in both South Georgia and the Falkland Islands long-line fisheries the reduction in seabird by-catch has been achieved through the introduction of mandatory mitigation measures and the effective implementation by vessels of these measures, supported by observer programmes to monitor the efficacy of measures and by-catch rates. Unfortunately, he says, the study reports that there remain many long-line fisheries which have very high levels of seabird by-catch mortality and others with insufficient data to properly assess seabird by-catch. Some of these fisheries are known to impact seabirds breeding on the UK South Atlantic Overseas Territories of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Tristan da Cunha, which collectively support a third of the world’s breeding albatrosses. He also writes that it is important for efforts to continue in the Falkland Islands and South Georgia to minimise seabird mortality in long-line fisheries, as well as in trawl fisheries, and that the assessment of seabird by-catch in other relevant fisheries is improved, and effective mitigation measures introduced and implemented to reduce levels of by-catch. He points out that the study does not consider by-catch of seabirds in trawl and gill-net fisheries, which are now recognised as contributing significantly to the global by-catch total in certain regions. Commenting on the report, Dr Martin Collins of GSGSSI indicated that the success of the South Georgia and the Falklands long-line fisheries in virtually eliminating seabird by-catch demonstrates what can be achieved with careful mitigation measures. He said: “There is now an urgent need for similar mitigation measures to be introduced to fisheries in other areas to halt the alarming declines in many populations of albatrosses and petrels.”