Interactions between seabirds and Pacific Islands' fisheries, particularly the tuna fisheries

Environment Consultants Fiji (2002) Interactions between seabirds and Pacific Islands’ fisheries, particularly the tuna fisheries. In: WCPFC - Scientific Committee 2nd Regular Session. WCPFC-SC2-2006/EB IP-9, Manila, Philippines, p 38

This report documents a wide-ranging overview of the issue of seabird bycatch from fisheries, in particular the tuna longline fisheries in the tropical Pacific, more specifically the Exclusive Economic Zones of the member countries of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. Australia, New Zealand and USA (Hawaii) were excluded from this report because the issue is well documented for these corporate member countries.
The study was intended to be an overview from which recommendations could be drawn depending on the findings, and an experienced Pacific ornithologist was tasked with preparing the report to ensure that it was not industry dominated or perceived to be partisan. The study was conducted mainly through personal email contact with a wide range of people and organisations within the Pacific or elsewhere with interest in the issue. Industry sources were all personally known to the author and/or from personal contact of intermediaries known to the author.
Very little substantive information was found concerning this issue. That which does exist, mainly the limited observer coverage of the tuna longline fisheries, indicates that seabird bycatch is extremely rare by comparison with the situation at higher latitudes and in the Hawaiian longline fisheries. This is also the unanimous opinion of those industry sources interviewed.
That seabird bycatch has not been a significant issue in 'tropical' waters has long been the opinion of the Australian authorities with all their significant mitigation and abatement measures being required only south of 20 degrees or 30 degrees S.
An analysis of the seabird avifauna of the tropical Pacific in comparison with the seabird avifauna of New Zealand (and higher latitudes Australia) indicates that there is very little overlap in species. Only four of the 36 known seabird bycatch species in Australian and New Zealand waters occur in the tropical Pacific, three of these are migrants and the only resident is the Wedge-tailed Shearwater.
An analysis of the types of birds caught as seabird bycatch (throughout the
Pacific), indicates that albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, over 500g comprise the vast majority of the birds caught.
An analysis of such species occurring in the SPC region (excludes Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii) reveals that in addition to the four known by catch species, seven species can be classed as species potentially vulnerable as bycatch. Of these, five breed in the region, the other two are annual migrants.
Six of these seven "potentially vulnerable species" are globally classified as threatened (Red List 2000 - Birdlife International, 2000).
Overall the number of known and potentially vulnerable bycatch species in the SPR region is small - 11 (of which six are Pacific residents and five migrants) by comparison with the 36 known bycatch species at higher latitudes in the South Pacific. However, the high proportion of internationally classified "Threatened" species is of concern. In this respect, there are, in addition, two Critically Endangered Petrels in the region - the Fiji Petrel and Beck's Petrel which are not identified here as vulnerable, because they are small, both well under 400 g weight.
Given the high proportion of species of conservation concern potentially vulnerable to longline bycatch, the issue in the SPR region is likely to be much more serious than the simple number of birds hooked.