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Last Updated: Monday, 7 March, 2005, 10:10 GMT
Fishing regulators 'are failing'
By Richard Black
BBC environment correspondent

Prince Charles (R) and Head Ranger Lyndon Perriman inspect a Northern Royal Albatross nest at Taiaroa Heads Albatross Colony, NZ
Albatross campaigner Prince Charles (r) on a weekend visit to Taiaroa Heads Albatross Colony, NZ
Many authorities set up to regulate fisheries are failing to take their responsibilities seriously, claims BirdLife International.

The conservation group says that marine mammals and birds, especially the albatross, are suffering as a result.

It wants Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) to reduce accidental deaths on longline gear.

Birdlife is submitting a report to a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization meeting in Rome, Italy.

It hopes the UNFAO can bring pressure to bear on the RFMOs.

Death by drowning

The Birdlife report ranks the environmental performance of the world's 19 inter-governmental RFMOs and finds the performance of some of them to be woeful.

Will it the take the complete dodo-like disappearance of this noble-winged creature to bring us to our senses?
Prince Charles
Of the five bodies whose areas overlap most with albatross distribution, three are singled out for particular concern: the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT), the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT).

Birdlife says "these organisations are doing little or nothing to reduce the bycatch of seabirds, sharks and turtles in their fisheries, while at the same time many of their fish stocks have declined by more than 90%".

Birdlife's major worry is the albatross. Nineteen of the 21 albatross species are officially classed as under global threat of extinction.

The conservation group estimates 100,000 albatrosses a year are being killed by both legal and illegal longline fishing fleets. The birds are dragged under the water and drowned when they are snared on the hooked bait pulled behind vessels on fishing gear that can stretch for tens of kilometres.

Bird treaty

In BirdLife's view, only the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which governs the Southern Ocean, is taking comprehensive action to tackle bycatch.

"CCAMLR has shown what can be achieved by RFMOs," said BirdLife's International Marine Policy Officer, Dr Cleo Small.

"If other fisheries' organisations did the same, threats to albatrosses, turtles, sharks and dolphins would be significantly reduced, pirate fishing eliminated and fish stocks sustainably managed.

"These organisations are a key part of saving albatrosses and ensuring sound stewardship of the high seas for future generations."

Some of the RFMOs include members - such as the UK and South Africa in the ICCAT - who are signatories to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACap).

The treaty, which only recently came into force, requires states to implement conservation measures that would reduce bycatch.

This includes, for example, protecting the birds by ensuring fishing boats use equipment that minimises the number of animals snared on hooks.

The campaign to protect albatrosses received a welcome boost at the weekend from Prince Charles.

The UK royal visited the Taiaroa Heads Albatross Colony outside Dunedin, New Zealand, and made an impassioned plea for world governments to do more to help the birds.

"Will it the take the complete dodo-like disappearance of this noble-winged creature to bring us to our senses, or are we to remain blind and deaf to the appalling tragedy unfolding out of sight, out of mind?" he said.

See the effect of fishing on marine wildlife

Satellites track albatross flight
10 Nov 04 |  Science/Nature
Tracking reveals albatross habits
14 Jan 05 |  Science/Nature
Albatrosses to benefit from pact
17 Nov 03 |  Science/Nature
Albatrosses face growing peril
06 Sep 03 |  Science/Nature

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