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Longline Laggards

UN FAO`s positive efforts to cut seabird deaths undermined by 14 longlinelaggards…

Rome, Italy, 25 February 2003 - With longline seabird bycatch still occurring at an alarming rate, BirdLife International today criticised the failure of 14 countries to develop national plans of action (NPOAs) to combat this needless slaughter, branding them longline laggards.In an analysis of state of preparation and implementation of NPOAs, BirdLifehas determined that a majority of the key longlining countries 14 haveeither not assessed their seabird bycatch problem or have failed to producean NPOA against the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation`s 2001target date. They are: Argentina, People`s Republic of China, Colombia,Ecuador, France, Iceland, Mozambique, Madagascar, Mexico, Panama, Peru, ThePhilippines, Spain and Uruguay. To date only 12 countries and the EuropeanCommunity (EC) have either completed or started to develop an NPOA. The 12 countries and one regional organisation which have either developed or started to develop an NPOA are: Angola, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas (UK), Japan, Namibia, New Zealand, South Africa, USA, European Community and Taiwan. Vietnam has acknowledged it will develop one. Brazil has also confirmed that it is committed to do so but progress has been slow.The welcome efforts of responsible countries to tackle the problem arebeing undermined because 14 irresponsible countries seem to be unwilling orunable to take the necessary action themselves, said Leon Viljoen,Co-ordinator of BirdLife`s Save the Albatross campaign. Unless these 14countries develop NPOAs, globally threatened species such as the CriticallyEndangered Spectacled Petrel and Vulnerable Wandering Albatross willcontinue to be driven closer to extinction, he said.The development of NPOAs has so far not been given the priority it deservesand the 14 countries BirdLife has identified need to address the plight ofthe seabirds as a matter of urgency, he said. It is clear to seabirdbiologists and conservationists alike that a `business as usual` approach isnot going to solve this problem on its own.BirdLife`s assessment at the last FAO IPOA-Seabirds meeting in 2001 was thatat least 27 nations [Angola, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China (PRC), Colombia, Ecuador, Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas (UK), France with special reference to their overseas territories, Japan, Mozambique, Madagascar, Mexico, Namibia, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, The Philippines, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Uruguay and the USA] need to produce NPOA-Seabirds in order to reduce the global mortality of seabirds in longline fisheries to levels at which the affected species are no longer at risk of extinction. More than three years after the first FAO meeting was convened on the issue,BirdLife has concluded that progress on the development and implementationof NPOAs has been unacceptably slow and inadequate. The efforts of theresponsible countries, as well as the wider FAO NPOA-Seabirds initiative,are suffering because of the failure of the 14 countries identified byBirdLife International to develop their own NPOAs.BirdLife therefore urges the 14 countries in question to honour theirobligations under the FAO IPOA-Seabirds initiative and to develop NPOAs as amatter of priority in 2003, said Mr Viljoen. The fact that so manycountries have not started to develop an NPOA also underlines the limits ofthe voluntary approach. This is becoming a major loophole that needs closingif the world is to avoid seabird extinctions because of longline fishing,he said.An analytical paper entitled Globally threatened seabirds at risk fromlongline fishing: international conservation responsibilities has also beentabled by BirdLife. This shows that countries such as Argentina, Chile,France, Mexico, Peru, South Korea and Spain that have either denied the needto develop an NPOA seabirds or simply not responded to the call by the FAO,are in fact key countries for the conservation of these seabirds. Argentina has refuted the need for it to develop an NPOA but is a rangestate for seven of the 22 seabird species globally threatened withextinction by longlining, all of which have been recorded being killed insignificant numbers by Argentine longline fishing vessels. Twelve species of22 threatened seabirds forage in Chilean waters and many of which are killedin the large longline operations along this coast. Mexico and Peru are alsokey feeding areas for many highly threatened species of the Pacific, whilethe French Southern Territories hold some of the most important Albatrossbreeding sites. South Korea and Spain both have substantial distant waterlongline fishing fleets that interact with a number of threatened albatrossspecies.BirdLife`s analysis also identifies New Zealand as being the most importantalbatross country hosting the highest number of globally threatenedspecies. Although New Zealand has started developing its NPOA, the RoyalForest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand (BirdLife in NZ) hasexpressed its frustration that little progress has been made in the lastyear and the Ministry of Fisheries has yet to release a draft for publiccomment. New Zealand should be leading other countries and not draggingbehind the rest in managing albatross bycatch, according to Barry Weeber,Forest and Bird`s Save the Albatross Campaigner.BirdLife is also urging the FAO to ensure that individual countries do notdiminish their responsibility to develop NPOAs either by not responding tothe call for action from the international conservation community or leavingthis responsibility to the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations(RFMOs). BirdLife also urges the RFMOs responsible for fishing operations on the highseas, outside the jurisdiction of coastal states, to follow the example setby the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marime Living Resources(CCAMLR), the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and the InternationalCommission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT), and to address thebycatch problem. BirdLife has therefore urged the FAO meeting to provideguidance and a target timetable for RFMOs to develop plans of actionrelevant to their different regional circumstances.BirdLife also wants the RFMOs to require the mandatory use of mitigationmeasures as an important step towards ensuring the survival of a number ofhighly threatened seabirds.For further details please contact Michael Szabo in the UK on +44 (0)1223 277 318 or +44 (0)7779 018 332 (mobile) or Andrea Mazza in Rome on +39 34 036 42091 (mobile).

4th July 2014