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Conservation crisis declared for albatrosses and petrels

Governments and experts at the UN Agreement for Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) meeting in Brazil have declared they are dealing with an albatross and petrel conservation crisis for which urgent action is required. Albatross and petrels are the most endangered group of birds on the planet with most species suffering steep declines in their numbers.

Humane Society International (HSI) says the principal reason this crisis has arisen is due to countries ignoring ACAP best practice advice which aims to prevent albatross drowning on longline hooks fishing for tuna. Even fishing techniques legally required by the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs), which govern global tuna fishing, are not complied with.

The RFMOs have been neglecting to enforce simple effective measures such as to set fishing lines at night and use weighted lines to ensure baited hooks sink more quickly out of the reach of birds. These are the measures most effective and readily enforceable to prevent albatross deaths.

The most recent estimate is of 36,000 seabirds being killed annually. It was identified at the ACAP meetings that major contributors to these deaths are Japanese and Chinese Taipei vessels in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans supposedly under the management control of the Commission for Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT). A working group of CCSBT meets next week in Canberra and HSI will be there to ensure that ACAP's message declaring a crisis for albatrosses and petrels is brought to the attention of all participants.

"All governments with tuna longline fleets operating in the range of albatross and petrels must implement the ACAP best practice advice as a matter of urgency if we are to address this conservation crisis," says HSI's Alexia Wellbelove. "Sadly, even Australia is not doing its part to implement ACAP best practice and stop the needless deaths of these seabirds."

"These majestic birds simply cannot sustain these ongoing high levels of killing each year. Declaring a crisis is an important first step, but now we call on countries to urgently mandate ACAP best practice. Australia has the opportunity to lead the way," concluded Ms Wellbelove.

The ACAP meeting was held in Florianopolis, Brazil from 5 – 17th May. The crisis for albatross and petrels species has been declared a week after the UN reported that a million species are threatened with extinction.

HSI's albatross scientist Nigel Brothers attended the ACAP meeting. Brothers was one of the first scientists to blow the whistle on the impact of longline fishing on seabirds in the early 1990s and has been instrumental in the development of the ACAP best practice advice to prevent their capture.

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