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South Africa joins global albatross conservation treaty ? one more country needed

Cape Town, South Africa, 7 May 2003 -- BirdLife International today welcomed news that South Africa has become the fourth country to ratify the global Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP). Only one more country needs to ratify the Treaty for it to enter into force. BirdLife welcomes this as a positive step forward in moves to curb the global threat posed to albatrosses and petrels by long-line fishing. Now only one more country needs to ratify before the Treaty can enter into force, said BirdLife`s Save the Albatross Campaign Co-ordinator, Leon-David Viljoen. With the United Kingdom very close to ratifying, ACAP has made great strides since it`s adoption just over two years ago, said Mr Viljoen. The strength of the Treaty is that it is legally binding on signatory states requiring them to take specific measures to reduce seabird by-catch from long-lining and improve the conservation status of albatrosses and petrels.Despite progress, the challenge remains to rally further international support for ACAP and for countries to go beyond signing the Agreement and actually ratify it. So far ten countries have signed ACAP - the United Kingdom, Australia, Ecuador, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, France, Brazil, Chile and Peru. Of these, only Australia, New Zealand, Ecuador and now South Africa have ratified yet.Global action is needed to reduce the threat of extinction for the 28 species of albatross and petrel covered in the Agreement. All these species are killed as by-catch in long-line fisheries when they attempt to snatch baited hooks, are dragged beneath the surface and drowned. Most globally threatened species of albatross and petrel live in the Southern Ocean, including the majestic Wandering Albatross, said Dr Deon Nel, Scientific Co-ordinator of BirdLife`s Save the Albatross Campaign. Simple effective by-catch mitigation measures such as bird-scaring streamers and line setting at night exist but must be much more widely adopted if these magnificent birds are to be saved from extinction, said Dr Nel.He further stated For the Treaty to be most effective, it is important for all countries with breeding sites or longline fleets operating within their ranges to both sign and ratify the Treaty as soon as possible. For example, BirdLife considers Argentina, China, Japan, Spain, France and South Korea to be priority countries.The Agreement, which includes an Action Plan, describes a number of conservation measures to be implemented by signatory states. Apart from reducing seabird by-catch from long-line fishing, these include research and monitoring, eradication at breeding sites of introduced species such as rats and feral cats, reduction of disturbance and habitat loss, and reduction of marine pollution.It is significant the South African Government used the parliamentary process to acknowledge its need to adhere to the Agreement. This in itself is an encouraging sign for marine conservation. It is also fitting that South Africa has joined ACAP because it hosted a meeting in 2001 at which the text of the Agreement was finalised.For further information or to arrange an interview please contact the BirdLife International Seabird Conservation Programme in Cape Town, South Africa, on +27 (0)21 886 9222. Related photographs will be posted on the web at: www.birdlife.net/news/pr/2003/04/sa_acap.html and www.savethealbatross.org.za

4th July 2014