A FOUR year action plan to reduce seabird mortality caused by trawl fishing around the Falklands was passed by the Islands Executive Councilors this week.
The adoption of the plan entitled, ‘Falkland Islands National Plan of Action for Reducing Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Trawl Fisheries’ ensures compliance with ‘domestic and international policies and conventions and adds to its international reputation for responsible and sustainable management of its fishery.’
More than 63 species of seabirds have been recorded in Falkland Islands waters with 22 known to breed in the Islands. For several species, including the black-browed albatross and southern giant petrel, the Falkland Island population represents significant proportions of the respective world populations.
Drafted by Falklands Conservation with input from the Fisheries Department, the document was commissioned by the Islands Government.
Falkland Islands Government Environmental Officer Nick Rendell notes, “Incidental seabird by-catch as a result of trawling fleets has been extensively documented throughout the Southern Hemisphere. The level of seabird by-catch is significant in several fishing sectors worldwide and its long-term impact is of serious global concern.”
The paper explains that in response to the concern related to the incidental seabird mortality in fisheries, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)
Committee of Fisheries (COFI) developed an International Plan of Action-Seabirds. The IPOA-S focused initially on longline fisheries, and requires that countries with responsibility for managing longline fisheries in their own waters, or a fleet that fishes elsewhere, should carry out an assessment of these fisheries to determine if by-catch problem exists, and if so to ascertain the extent and nature of the problem, and adopt a National Plan of Action – Seabirds (NPOA-S).
Recently, the best practice technical guidelines for IPOA/NPOA-S have extended the scope of these plans to include trawl fisheries. The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) came into force in 2004, also as a result of international concern over the high level of incidental seabird mortality associated with fisheries.
The first NPOA-Trawling came about as a consequence of work conducted by the Falklands Seabird at Sea Team, which estimated mortality highlighted that trawl
fisheries were causing significantly more seabird mortalities than longline fishing activities in Falkland Island waters. The draft of the FI NPOA-Trawling was considered essential to meeting the overall conservation objectives of IPOA-S.
The primary objective of the FI NPOA-Trawling is to reduce incidental seabird mortality due to interaction with trawlers to a sustainable level, defined as a level that will have no deleterious impact on the long-term sustainability of seabird populations. This will be achieved by setting indicative bycatch objectives to reduce seabird mortality to a specific level and providing detailed Seabird Interaction Management Strategies to enable the process.
A seabird bycatch committee will be formed to monitor progress on an annual basis, and the same group will also maintain contact with industry groups and relevant officers to ensure that monitoring and mitigation measures are kept up to date.
Mr Rendell told MercoPress he was delighted that the paper had been accepted by Executive Council, “It has been long overdue.”
By Lisa Watson – SeAled PR – Stanley