Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham has welcomed the UK Overseas Territories important role in agreeing new measures to protect seabirds.
The new measures were agreed at the 22nd ordinary meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), held in Istanbul from 9-19 November 2011.
Among the outcomes of the meeting was a measure that will strengthen action to reduce the accidental drowning of seabirds caught up in the fisheries. A deal was reached following a joint proposal by the UK Overseas Territories, EU, Brazil, South Africa and Uruguay.
On hearing the outcomes, Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham said:
This represents a significant step forward in the sustainable management of our fisheries and for the protection of some of our most threatened seabirds in the South Atlantic. I am delighted that, with our support, the UK's Overseas Territories have been able to play such a central role in helping to reach agreement on this important issue.
Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, St Helena, and Turks and Caicos Islands comprise the UKOT membership of ICCAT.
According to a study from the Bird Life International Publication and its global seabird program, some fisheries have enforced strict regulations, resulting in substantial by-catch reductions in recent years.
Seabird deaths around South Georgia in the CCAMLR zone of the Southern Ocean have declined by 99% since regulations were enforced. South Africa achieved a drop of 85% by-catch in its foreign-licensed fleet in 2008, when a cap was placed on the number of seabird deaths permitted. More recently, in April 2011, Brazil passed a law requiring the use of stringent seabird by-catch measures in their domestic tuna long-line fleets.
The study published in the science journal Endangered Species Research also points out that the UK’s Overseas Territories in the South Atlantic holding a third of the world’s breeding albatrosses the UK have a major responsibility to ensure seabird-friendly fisheries.