Action plan to protect seabirds

20 Nov 2012
The EC has adopted an Action Plan to address the problem of seabird bycatch

The EC has adopted an Action Plan to address the problem of seabird bycatch

Responding to scientific evidence showing that high numbers of seabird species are being caught in fishing gear every year, the European Commission has adopted an Action Plan to address the problem.

The plan sets up a management framework to minimise seabird bycatch to the lowest levels practically possible, focusing on longline and static net fisheries (where seabird bycatch are known to be highest), but also covering other gears such as trawls and purse seines.

The plan includes 30 recommended actions that are a combination of binding and non-binding measures and will apply to EU fishing vessels inside and outside EU waters as well

Specific short-term actions included in the plan are:

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

In the longer-term, the goal is to incorporate the mitigation and monitoring elements into the new frameworks for technical measures and data collection being developed in the context of the reform of CFP and provide necessary funding to support this under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

Commissioner Maria Damanaki 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."

Martin Harper, director of conservation at the RSPB said: “We applaud the EU for finally calling time on the needless deaths of seabirds. The RSPB is ready to work together with fishing communities to put the plan into action both here and abroad.

“However, the plan is essentially voluntary and to have real teeth it needs to be underpinned with legally binding measures under the Common Fisheries Policy, in particular to require fishing boats to use the technical fixes known to avoid catching birds, and to collect data on seabird bycatch.”

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