Through a series of workshops, the Common Oceans Tuna Project aims to reduce the impacts of pelagic (tuna) longline fisheries on albatross and petrel populations and ensure that the implementation of best-practice seabird by-catch measures is accelerated. Read about the latest National Awareness Workshop in October, which was aimed at government officials, fishing industry representatives and fisheries observers.
The Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross and the Endangered Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross both forage extensively within Namibian waters and longlining is a significant cause of the poor conservation status of these, and other, seabird species. Currently, much of Namibia’s Exclusive Economic Zone falls outside the area (south of 25°S) where tuna longline vessels are required by international convention to use two out of three seabird by-catch mitigation measures (bird-scaring lines, night setting or branch-line weighting). It is therefore likely that Namibian tuna longline vessels accidentally catch seabirds, thereby contributing to the extinction trends of threatened albatrosses. However, the convention is currently reviewing its recommendations and may extend the area of application of the conservation measures to include more Namibian waters.
Adopting best practice and regulations relating to seabird by-catch on paper is one thing, but ensuring they are implemented globally is another. There is certainly a need to increase awareness of and education about seabird by-catch issues, mitigation requirements and options available to crews aboard fishing vessels. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and BirdLife International’s local partner, BirdLife South Africa, are working with high-seas tuna fleets fishing in the critical areas south of 25°S to ensure that they operate responsibly, efficiently and sustainably. BirdLife South Africa is responsible for ensuring that the seabird by-catch component is implemented.
The Common Oceans Tuna Project aims to reduce the impacts of pelagic (tuna) longline fisheries on albatross and petrel populations and ensure that the implementation of best-practice seabird by-catch measures is accelerated. There are also always new technologies (such as lumo leads and hook pods) to demonstrate, which have the potential to be the all-in-one solution to seabird by-catch. These exciting devices, together with detailed information about their implementation in everyday fishing operations and their benefits for Namibia’s fleets and the country’s international reputation, were presented in a two – day workshop in Walvis Bay. The FAO, BirdLife South Africa’s Albatross Task Force (ATF) and members of the Namibian ATF (part of the Namibian Nature Foundation) presented to about 45 participants in order to build capacity in-country for long-term sustainability.
Hannes Holtzhausen (Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Namibia), who has been instrumental in driving seabird conservation in Namibia, opened the meeting with these inspirational words: ‘The ministry is planning to implement an ecosystems approach to fisheries in the near future. I hope Namibia will become a leader in seabird-safe fisheries and have sustainable fisheries for the future. Namibia is a range state for six albatross and four petrel species and therefore has an obligation to protect these populations.’
The success of the workshop can be summed up by some of the participants’ comments: ‘Training was very helpful and I learnt a lot’; ‘All observers must be trained to do these duties and record this type of data’; and ‘Let’s sustain the birds for future populations’.