Catch Fish, not Bird, Achievements on Seabird Bycatch Mitigation
To fulfill Taiwan’s national responsibility to address the issue on seabird bycatch and in response to the International Plan of Action for Reducing the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in longline fisheries (IPOA-Seabirds) adopted by FAO, Fisheries Agency, Council of Agriculture (the Agency) will host a Press Conference on June 12, 2014, to publish the updated National Plan of Action for Reducing Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Tuna Longline Fisheries of Taiwan (NPOA-Seabirds). The Agency will explain how Taiwanese fisheries interact with those seabirds migrating at high latitudes. A specimen of wandering albatross with wingspan 315 cm will be demonstrated for the first time in the conference, and a video entitled “Marine Ecology Conservation-Distant Water Fisheries and Seabirds Conservation” will be shown to further reiterate the efforts Taiwan has been doing to solve the problem of seabird bycatch.
Bycatch mitigation of seabirds as first priority
According to the Agency, as one of the major tuna longline fisheries countries in the world, Taiwan has more than 1,000 large- and small-scale longline vessels operating in the three oceans. Those vessels might incidentally catch albatrosses, petrels and other seabirds while operating at high latitudes. To reduce seabird bycatch, the FAO adopted IPOA-Seabirds in 1999, requesting countries to adopt NPOA and take actions to reduce incidental catch of seabirds in their longline fisheries. The Agency has developed its first edition of NPOA-Seabirds in 2006, and updated this plan in 2014. Besides, the Agency has also formulated relevant work plans, requesting fishing vessels to use at least two of the following seabird mitigation measures: bird-scaring lines, weighted branch lines, and night setting, in accordance with relevant recommendations/resolutions adopted by tuna-related Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), with the aim of fulfilling Taiwan’s responsibility for reducing seabird bycatch.
The interaction between Taiwan and albatrosses
The Agency further stated that albatrosses and petrels migrate mostly in south of 30 degrees south latitude in the three oceans and north of 23 degrees north latitude in the Pacific Ocean. Both of them are the most common seabirds Taiwanese distant water fishing vessels encounter during fishing operation. There are 22 species of albatrosses on earth, all of which have been included on the conservation list of The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) and Appendix 1 and Appendix 2 of Convention on Migratory Species. Among them, wandering albatross, with wingspan longer than 3.7 m, has the longest wingspan in the world. Those seabirds spend most of their life on the ocean, which make it difficult for people to sight them, let alone collect their information. Thanks to the records from the observers onboard our tuna longline fishing vessels operating in the international waters, we may have the chance to have some knowledge of these amazing creatures and further protect them by taking appropriate mitigation measures. Through those measures, Taiwan has also made contributions to scientific research and protection of these important species in the marine ecosystem.
Last but not least, the Agency would like to emphasize that the sustainability of fisheries depends not only on the utilization of fisheries resources but also the protection of other species in the ecosystem and marine biodiversity. “Catch fish, not bird”, i.e. seabird-friendly fisheries, is the best approach to protecting the earth, the oceans and all relevant species.
Contact point: Tzu-Yaw TSAY, Deputy Director-General