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Black-browed Albatross, which nests on the Falkland Islands, is one of six South Atlantic albatross species considered to be facing extinction. Photo by Mike Read (
Black-browed Albatross, which nests on the Falkland Islands, is one of six South Atlantic albatross species considered to be facing extinction. Photo by Mike Read ( image

A new hope for endangered seabirds

Posted on: 22 Nov 2011

Albatrosses are among the world’s most endangered birds, and populations in the South Atlantic are some of the fastest declining in the world. However, a new resolution brokered and ratified at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, on 19 November could give hope to these beleaguered birds.

The agreement means that tuna- and swordfish-fishing nations will have to take a preventative action to avoid the accidental bycatch of albatrosses and other seabirds. The measures were jointly proposed by the EU, Brazil, South Africa, Uruguay and the UK on behalf of its overseas territories.

There are 22 species of albatross recognised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), all of which are of conservation concern and 19 of which are facing global extinction. One-third of the world’s albatrosses nest on the South Atlantic UK Overseas Territories of the Falkland Islands, South George and Tristan da Cunha. This last is home to the endemic Tristan Albatross, which is Critically Endangered.

The resolution requires all longline vessels fishing south of latitude 25 degrees south – roughly Brazil to Namibia – to use two of three proposed measures to reduce bycatch: using bird streamer lines (a bird-scaring device), setting lines at night, or adding weights to baited hooks. It is thought that these measures will significantly reduce the number of birds being killed.

Dr Cleo Small, representing the RSPB and BirdLife International, attended the meeting. Speaking from Turkey, she said: “This offers significant hope to the protection of these iconic UK birds, whose population declines are among the fastest of any seabird species worldwide. Today we have an agreement that all boats working in the open waters of the South Atlantic will have to adopt at least two measures to avoid catching seabirds.”

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