Report on the International Fishers' Forum on solving the incidental capture of seabirds in longline fisheries, Auckland, New Zealand, 6-9 November 2000

Baird SJ (ed) (2001) Report on the International Fishers’ Forum on solving the incidental capture of seabirds in longline fisheries, Auckland, New Zealand, 6-9 November 2000. [Department of Conservation?], [Wellington, New Zealand]

Compilation of notes from the forum. The incidental capture of albatrosses and petrels in longline fishing operations has become a concern to governments, fishing industries, and the public in recent years. A growing number of programmes to develop solutions to this problem are being conducted and increasingly effective methods are being developed and implemented.

The purpose of the International Fishers Forum was to provide an informal opportunity for fishers, gear technologists, researchers, and government officials to meet and exchange information on mitigation measures being used and/or developed in longline fisheries around the world. It is hoped that this exchange of information and ideas will result in a more coordinated response to this seabird bycatch issue and accelerate progress in solving the problem. In particular, the forum aimed to:
- provide fishers with information on the latest mitigation measures that could be adopted by their fleet;
- review gear development programmes currently underway;
- identify global priorities for future gear development and other research;
- foster a coordinated approach to testing mitigation measures thereby reducing duplication of effort;
- establish a network of fishers who would continue to exchange information on further advancements after the forum; and
- provide fishers with information on seabird population modelling programmes, with particular emphasis on how modelling can be used to predict the impact of fisheries on seabird species.

The participants and the organising committee were very pleased with the outcomes from the forum. As is evident from this report, a considerable amount of information was shared and new working relationships were formed that will last into the future. Participants have recommended that a second forum be held in two years' time, so that they can report back on the work they committed to do during the forum.

The forum was held at a critical time. Concern about the impact of fishing on seabird populations is growing as illegal and unregulated fishing in Antarctic waters continues, as results from seabird population studies continue to show declines, and as studies of the foraging range of seabirds indicate significant overlap with unobserved fisheries. Under the FAO International Plan of Action for Reducing Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries, States1 should assess their fisheries to determine whether seabirds are incidentally caught by their vessels, and if they are, to prepare a National Plan of Action that details how the bycatch will be addressed. Some States are currently preparing their national plans. Hopefully the information shared at this forum can be used as a reference to assist States to prepare their plans with full knowledge of the suite of mitigation measures currently available. States are due to start implementation of their Plans prior to the FAO Committee on Fisheries session in early 2001.

The International Fishers' Forum was a joint New Zealand Government and fishing industry initiative. The major sponsor was the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade whose support enabled fishers and researchers from a number of developing countries attend the forum. Other sponsors included New Zealand government agencies, international agencies including FAO and IUCN, gear manufacturers, and fishing industry associations. The forum programme (attached as Appendix 1) was structured to provide an overview of information relevant to the issue on Day 1 and Day 2, and discussions to develop an agreed set of outcomes were the focus of Day 3 and Day 4. The report presented here is a summary of the four days, rather than a comprehensive record. In keeping with the informal atmosphere of the forum, presenters were not required to submit written papers before the forum. Consequently only the key points made by presenters are included here. Summaries of the key points of agreement that arose from working group sessions are also recorded.