Status of branch line weighting within RFMOs as a mitigation measure in pelagic longline fisheries
Under current management arrangements the fishing vessels of flag States and fishing entities operating in the area of competence of relevant Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) are required to adopt two of the three seabird bycatch mitigation measures recommended by ACAP as best practice. Efforts to date to arrest the ongoing serious decline in threatened albatross and petrel species are proving ineffective because adoption levels are inadequate, non-compliance is widespread, monitoring of compliance is either non-existent or inadequate and incentives are lacking to encourage compliance. Absent independent monitoring, non-adherence with branch line weighting requirements appear less likely than non-adherence with requirements concerning night setting and use of bird scaring lines during setting. The application of branch line weighting as a primary mitigation measure is consistent with a precautionary approach, as branch line weighting is a measure that is most likely to be complied with, and hardest to violate. Any noncompliance with RFMO seabird conservation measures by a flag-State or fishing entity fishing vessel operator authorised to fish within the Area of Competence of a RFMO represents a form of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Action to address such problems requires collaborative efforts to ensure effective compliance action by the flag State, fishing entity and RFMO.