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Forum launched to save the world’s largest seabird

Southern Seabird Forum launched to save the world’s largest seabird – the Albatross

Chile’s Ambassador to New Zealand, Carlos Appelgren, has welcomed international support for a forum that will help South American fishers reduce the mortality of seabirds during fishing operations.

The forum, scheduled for mid-2005 in South America, will involve fishers from Chile, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and the Falklands. It has been initiated by New Zealand’s Southern Seabird Solutions, and funded by the British-based animal welfare and conservation charity, Care for the Wild International. A host country has yet to be determined.

Ambassador Appelgren said albatrosses and petrels are important to both New Zealanders and South Americans. “These magnificent birds are international travellers and ocean ambassadors that help link our two countries. What happens in New Zealand’s waters, and what happens in South American waters has a huge bearing on their survival,” he said.

The South American fishers’ forum builds on the success of two international forums held in Auckland (2000) and in Hawaii (2002). These allow fishers from different fleets to share knowledge on the issues and effective mitigation techniques.

The South American forum, with its more regional focus, will ensure more fishers from local fleets can participate and that problems particular to their fisheries can be discussed.

It will also allow cultural considerations to be built into the programme, Ambassador Appelgren said.

“Fishing is an important part of the economies and culture of South American countries, but as we learn more about the effect it can have on some seabird species it is important that we do what we can to reduce these deaths,” he said.

He believes the model that Southern Seabird Solutions uses, fishers working with fishers to share their mitigation methods, knowledge and experience would be particularly effective.

Southern Seabird Solutions Convenor, Janice Molloy, said the use of effective mitigation measures now forms part of best practice fishing in New Zealand, and the opportunity to work with South American fishers was extremely valuable.

“Effective seabird mitigation is not just about physical changes to the vessel and how it operates, it also needs a change of attitude and culture amongst the fishers.”

Care for the Wild International’s Chief Executive, Barbara Maas, said her organisation welcomed the opportunity to help transfer fishing technologies and knowledge to reduce seabird mortalities to other fleets and build commitment throughout the Southern Ocean.

According to Dr Maas “preventing albatross deaths on long lines is one of today’s most pressing marine conservation issues and is crucial to the species’ survival.

“Each year 100,000 albatrosses are drowned by commercial long line fishing vessels.

Seabirds do not understand or respect territorial boundaries. They soar the southern oceans and that means success depends on the international co-operation of all stakeholders. Ultimately change can only be effected if fishermen themselves commit to seabird-safe fishing practices.”

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