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Indian Ocean Tuna Commission Adopts Measures to Reduce Seabird Bycatch

30th April 2012

Amsterdam Albatross. Photography: Vincent LegendreThe 16th meeting of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) took place from 22-26 April 2012, in Fremantle, Australia, agreeing on measures to be implemented by longline vessels in the Indian Ocean, aimed at reducing seabird bycatch.

Home to globally important populations of eight albatross species including the Critically Endangered Amsterdam Albatross, the Indian Ocean is popular with fleets of longliners fishing for tuna. Tuna longliners typically deploy several thousand hooks, attached by branchlines to a main line that can be more than 100km long.

Seabirds, especially albatrosses, are vulnerable to becoming hooked when they take the bait, and are drowned as the line sinks.
Scientists estimate that upwards of 300,000 seabirds are being killed every year by longline fisheries; it’s believed this is the primary reason behind 17 of the world’s 22 species of albatrosses being threatened with extinction.

All longline vessels in the region will be required to use two of the following three seabird bycatch mitigation measures:
1) bird streamers, which scare birds away from the hooks;
2) weights added to hooks to make them sink more quickly; or
3) the setting of hooks at night, when most birds are less active.

If appropriately implemented these measures are expected to result in significant reductions in albatross mortality.

The Government of Japan has contributed US$20,000 to support training workshops for fishing skippers to help them implement the new requirements. The training will be carried out in collaboration with BirdLife and the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation

Meanwhile, the Fourth Session of the Meeting of the Parties to Agreement on Albatross and Petrels (ACAP MoP4) was held in Lima, Peru from 23 April to 27 April 2012. We will circulate a summary of the report as soon as we see it.

More information on the IOTC progress is available through BirdLIfe International, or from the ITOC website

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