EU action plan on seabirds begins

north sea trawler

A new action plan for sea birds was adopted today in Europe.

An action plan to reduce an estimated 200,000 sea-bird deaths a year due to the European fisheries industry has been adopted today. The new action plan will apply to EU registered fishing vessels where-ever they operate in the world and to non-EU vessels operating in EU waters.

It is hoped that the new action plan will reduce the number of sea birds caught up in fishing gear and will help protect bird populations – some of the species are at high risk of regional extinction as a consequence of the fishing industry.

Bird species which will benefit from the new action include:

  •  albatrosses,
  • petrels,
  • shearwaters,
  • auks,
  • sea ducks
  • and divers.

While the new management plan aims to tackle all fishing types it is particularly aimed at long-line fishing and static nets fishing which has the highest impact on sea birds. There are 30 recommendations – some of which are binding while others are voluntary – which aims to take an eco-system wide approach to the  European Union Common Fisheries Policy.

Maria Damanaki, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: “We see today’s Action Plan as a platform for giving a clear and comprehensive picture of the current situation and progress needed in order to achieve coherent and effective management to minimise seabird bycatch.”

The plan’s 30 recommended actions are a combination of binding and non-binding measures. Specific short-term actions include:

  • more rapid implementation of fisheries management measures to protect seabirds within Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated under the Birds Directive;

  • undertaking more extensive monitoring of fisheries where information on seabird bycatch is lacking or uncertain;

  • implementing proven mitigation measures (such as the use of bird-scaring lines and acoustic deterrents or the use of weighted lines) in long line fisheries in EU and non-EU waters where bycatch is highest;

  • and instigating research into the development of practical and efficient mitigation measures particularly in static net fisheries.

While some of the 30 recommendations will be included within EU regulations many of them will be left to member states to introduce on a voluntary basis.

The International Council for the Exploration of Sea (ICES) estimates that EU based fisheries and fishing vessels account for about 200,000 bird deaths a year. As many as 49 species are affected by the various fishing methods.

Long-line fisheries can target 20 species of birds as by-catch. These include the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater and the near-threatened Sooty shearwater, Yelkouan shearwater and Audouin’s gull.

Five species of sea birds that are subject to special conservation measures are also targeted by the long-line fisheries industry. These are Corys shearwater and Mediterranean gull in the Mediterranean and the Black-legged kittiwake, Black guillemot and Manx shearwater in the north eat Atlantic.

Static net fishing tends to impact on sea-bottom feeding birds and those that shallow dive for food. Again birds that are regionally threatened or subject to special conservation measures are impacted by this type of trawling.  Steller’seider is listed as Vulnerable by IUCN and is in Annex 1 of the EU Birds Directive as are the red-throated diver, black-throated diver, Slavonian grebe and smew.

In waters outside of EU jurisdiction almost 50% of the species that are caught as by-catch is considered to be threatened or endangered including iconic species such as the 17 species of albatross – of which an estimated 100,000 are killed each year as by-catch – and a number of species of Petrels.

The new pan will also see a movement away from a ‘same size fits all’ type of management. A new regional plan will allow technical and management measures to be tailored for specific fisheries. While this is not planned to come into full force until 2016 where appropriate and urgently required, already  available and proven mitigation measures may be incorporated into multiannual management plans.

 External sites:

EU Press release: Fisheries: Commission proposes action plan to protect seabirds.


Posted in Birds, Marine and tagged , .
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