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604Albatross Treaty

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  • Bob Conrich
    Feb 1, 2004
      Sunday Herald, Scotland
      1 February 2004
      Fishing nations agree to protect albatross
      By James Hamilton

      THE albatross is now protected by a new global treaty, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has announced.

      An international Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) came into force today. It was triggered last
      November when South Africa became the fifth country to ratify its terms, after Australia, New Zealand, Ecuador and Spain.

      More than 300,000 birds, including 100,000 albatrosses – the world’s largest seabirds – are killed by long-line fisheries
      every year, plunging 19 of the 21 southern species of albatross into serious decline.

      The new accord means fishing vessels using the waters of treaty countries will be obliged to take measures to reduce seabirds
      becoming fouled on fishing lines. The five nations involved will also be required to protect the birds’ breeding grounds,
      reduce habitat loss and tackle marine pollution.

      Euan Dunn, of the RSPB and BirdLife International, an alliance of conservation groups, said: “This is a massive step forward
      in efforts to curb the senseless slaughter of these majestic birds and signatory countries now have no choice but to take
      steps to get them off the hook.”

      The agreement will tackle the threat of long-line fleets hunting Patagonian toothfish and southern bluefin tuna for lucrative
      sushi markets in the US and Japan.

      They cast lines up to 80 miles long carrying millions of baited hooks and tempting seabirds, which are snagged, dragged under
      and drowned.

      Measures to reduce the number of seabirds being accidentally caught include setting lines at night, deploying bird-scaring
      streamers, and weighting lines so that the baited hooks sink more quickly.

      Dunn said: “These measures must be much more widely adopted if these magnificent birds are to be saved from extinction.”

      The UK and its overseas territories have so far failed to ratify ACAP although the government signed the agreement three
      years ago.

      Dunn said: “The UK has a major responsibility because its overseas territories, particularly Tristan da Cunha, South Georgia
      and the Falklands, are vitally important to populations of globally threatened species. Until the UK and its overseas
      territories ratify ACAP, they will be mere observers and unable to influence action taken under the treaty.”

      ©2004 newsquest (sunday herald) limited. all rights reserved


      The Independent, UK
      UK blocks plan to save albatross
      Ministers accused of undermining sea bird convention, while Commons committee investigates clean rivers U-turn
      By Severin Carrell
      01 February 2004

      Global efforts to prevent hundreds of thousands of rare albatrosses being killed by tuna fishing have been thwarted because
      Britain has failed to ratify a new treaty, conservationists have claimed.

      The convention comes into force today and marks the first attempt to stop the deaths of about 300,000 threatened albatrosses
      and petrels on "long-line" tuna fishery hooks each year, including 19 species of albatross close to extinction.

      These fisheries, which exist to catch highly prized, endangered bluefin tuna and Patagonian toothfish for the US and Far
      Eastern fish and sushi markets, use "long lines" that stretch for up to 80 miles. Many of the boats involved are illegal,
      sailing under flags of convenience.

      Senior ornithologists at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds warned that efforts to stop the bird deaths have been
      severely weakened because the UK has not endorsed the new treaty. Britain's credibility as a champion of marine conservation
      has also been damaged.

      Britain's involvement in the treaty is seen as crucial because it owns many of the most significant breeding grounds for rare
      albatrosses in the south Atlantic, such as Tristan de Cunha, the Falklands, South Georgia and parts of the Antarctic.

      Britain played a leading role in drafting the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels. It chaired the
      negotiations that set up the agreement in February 2001, and ministers have regularly pledged they would implement its measures.

      However, unexpected legal and political wrangles have meant that Britain has been unable formally to adopt the treaty, which
      has meant it has come into force at least a year later than expected.

      The treaty has now been triggered only because South Africa formally ratified the agreement late last year, joining Ecuador,
      Australia, New Zealand and Spain.

      John O'Sullivan, the RSPB's international treaties adviser, said: "Albatross and petrel are dying in their tens of thousands,
      and any delay is bound to lead to more deaths."

      He said the delays meant that the first meeting to open talks on what kind of safety measures should be introduced would not
      be held until October at the earliest.

      The spectacled petrel is causing particular concern for conservationists. It is one of two "critically endangered" birds in
      the UK's overseas territories. Only 4,000 pairs survive on Tristan de Cunha, but about 750 birds are killed every year off
      Brazil's coast alone. Elsewhere in the UK's territories, numbers of wandering, black-browed and grey-headed Atlantic
      yellow-nosed and sooty albatrosses are all in decline. However, since signing the treaty in 2001, the Department for
      Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has encountered a series of legal and political obstacles that it failed to predict.

      Defra discovered that the measures included in the treaty could clash with European Union rules on trade. It also found it
      was more complicated than originally thought for Whitehall to control the laws and behaviour of territories such as the
      Falklands and Tristan de Cunha.

      © 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd
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