Best Practice Advice to Reduce the Bycatch of Seabirds in the Convention Area

IATTC SAC (2014) Best Practice Advice to Reduce the Bycatch of Seabirds in the Convention Area

The incidental mortality of seabirds, mostly albatrosses and petrels, in longline fisheries continues to be a serious global concern and was major reason for the establishment of the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) and the BirdLife International’s Global Seabird Programme (in particular the Albatross Task Force). The distribution of most albatrosses overlap with pelagic longline fisheries managed by the five tuna RFMOs and the adoption of best practice seabird conservation in these fisheries is a high priority. As an example of the potential impact on threatened seabird species it was estimated that at least 160,000 seabirds (upper range of 320,000 seabirds) are killed each year in global longline fisheries (Anderson et al. 2011). In longline fisheries seabirds are killed when they become hooked and drowned while foraging for baits on longline hooks as the gear is deployed. They can also become hooked as the gear is hauled; however, many of these seabirds can be released alive with careful handling. Although most mitigation measures are broadly applicable, the specifications and application of some will vary with local methods and gear configurations. For example, most scientific literature on seabird bycatch mitigation in pelagic fisheries relates to larger vessels, with little research attention to smaller vessels’ gear configuration and methods in artisanal fleets. Seabird bycatch mitigation advice is under development for these fisheries.

The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission adopted in 2011 a Seabird Conservation Measure (Resolution C-11-02) to mitigate the impact on seabirds of fishing. Although the text of this Resolution followed at the time of adoption, and to some extent, best-practice recommendations for mitigating seabird bycatch in longline fisheries, recent research on the efficiency and applicability of bycatch mitigation measures has led to a revision of this best practice advice. The Seabird Bycatch Working Group (SBWG), a subsidiary body of the ACAP Advisory Committee, is responsible for reviewing mitigation research in order to provide the best technical advice on how to minimise seabird mortality in fisheries. The outcomes of recent reviews by the SBWG have been already considered by a number of other tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (tRFMOs), who have revised their seabird conservation measures to reflect the latest best practice advice. In particular, the two column table (offering a range of options for mitigation) previously used in a number of tRFMO seabird conservation measures has been discarded following evidence showing that a number of mitigation measures contained in it are not effective. Consequently, most of these conservation measures have been revised and amended, and now chiefly rely on the use of three SAC-05 INF-E ACAP-BLI Seabirds – Reducing bycatch mitigation methods (line weighting, night setting and bird scaring lines used in combination) as these have proven to be the most effective in reducing seabird mortality in longline fisheries. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) revised its seabird measure in 2011 (ICCAT Supplemental Recommendation 11-09), the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) likewise did the same in 2012 (WCPFC Conservation and Management Measure 2012-071), as well as the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC Resolution 12/06).

This document has been drafted to provide the IATTC Scientific Advisory Committee with the latest comprehensive review of the scientific literature addressing seabird bycatch in pelagic longline fisheries conducted in the most recent Seabird Bycatch Working Group meeting held in 2013 (see SBWG5 Final Report,…, and AC7 Final Report,…). This document also provides updated information on the distribution of seabirds at sea in the East Pacific Ocean, should the Scientific Advisory Committee wish to address the area of application in the current Resolution C-11-02.