Fishing boat operating close to Dunnet Head RSPB reserve, Caithness, near Thurso, Scotland

Advocacy with fishery managers

One of the main causes of seabird decline is commercial fisheries operating in seabird feeding areas, so it’s crucial that we work with fisheries to tackle the issues and reduce seabird bycatch.

 Black browed albatross Thalassarche melanophrys, West Point Island, Falklands.

Saving albatrosses from extinction

Albatrosses are stunning, long-lived seabirds that spend much of their lives soaring over the ocean. But bycatch is driving population declines and tragically 15 of the 22 albatross species are threatened with extinction. . It’s estimated that around 100,000 albatrosses are killed this way every year.

 

The RSPB and BirdLife International are tackling this problem by working with fisheries, from those catching fish to those involved in fishing policy regionally, nationally and internationally.

Shy albatross Diomedea cauta, birds flocking around a small fishing boat, Stewart Island, New Zealand

Fighting the problem on all fronts

The Save the Albatross Campaign works with fishery managers at national, regional and international levels through the following initiatives and organisations.

  • The Albatross Task Force works locally with fishermen
  • The Regional Fisheries Management Organisations
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  • The International Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels
  • The Marine Stewardship Council’s Stakeholder Council
Local fisherman arranging his nets by the sea

The Albatross Task Force

The Albatross Task Force an international team of seabird bycatch mitigation experts led by the RSPB and BirdLife International that works directly with fishers to bring about change. Their mission is to reduce seabird bycatch by 80% in some of the deadliest fisheries for albatrosses.

Fishermen aboard a boat processing their catch

Regional Fisheries Management Organisations

Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) are the organisations through which countries collaborate to manage fish stocks on the high seas, as well as those that straddle the coastal waters of more than one country.

Under the UN Law of the Sea and linked agreements, RFMOs have a duty to minimise the bycatch of non-target species in their fisheries, including albatrosses, sharks and sea turtles.

We work closely with RFMOs to press for assessment and reduction of bycatch. Significant progress has been made in the tuna commissions. All five commissions now require their longline vessels to use bycatch reduction measures in most areas overlapping with albatrosses.

A view over Mersehead Sands as the sun sets

Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN

All countries are encouraged by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN to implement National Plans of Action on seabird bycatch. BirdLife works nationally to support countries to develop effective plans. In 2008-9, BirdLife also supported the development of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Best Practice Technical Guidelines to guide effective plans.

A spectacled petrel in flight over the sea with a rainbow behind

The Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) requires signatory states (which includes the UK) to take specific measures to improve the conservation status of albatrosses and petrels.

Measures include research and monitoring, reduction of incidental mortality in fisheries, eradication of non-native species at breeding sites, reduction of disturbance and habitat loss, and reduction of pollution.

BirdLife is an observer organisation to ACAP and plays an active role in all ACAP Working Groups. With ACAP, BirdLife has produced Mitigation Factsheets which detail the range of potential mitigation measures available to reduce seabird bycatch in longline and trawl fisheries. 

 Lesser black-backed gull Larus fuscus, adult standing on granite rocks typical of the Scilly coastline, Gugh, Isles of Scilly, UK

Marine Stewardship Council

The Marine Stewardship Council has developed a globally recognised standard for seafood sustainability. BirdLife is actively involved with the Marine Stewardship Council and is a member of its Stakeholder Council. This includes making sure that the sustainability standard properly considers seabirds during the assessment process.

 

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A close-up of the sea near Aberdeen used as a background credit Fiona Emslie

How does fishing affect seabirds?

Discover why fisheries have a greater direct effect on seabirds than any other human activity. Plus, how we are working to bring about positive change.