US issues permits for albatross 'bycatch' - Bird group disappointed12/09/2012 10:59:30 Permits won't improve current situation
September 2012. On August 20, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a permit under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) authorizing a limited number of seabirds to be killed or injured by Hawaiian swordfish vessels.
This action is the first permit ever issued under the MBTA - America's foremost law protecting migratory bird species - to regulate the "take" of migratory birds in the operation of an otherwise lawful commercial activity.
Black-footed and Laysan albatrosses killed by swordfish boats
A Draft Environmental Assessment on the NMFS permit application was published by FWS in the Federal Register on January 10, 2012. ABC provided official comment on the assessment's analysis of the proposed permit and its impacts to seabirds. ABC indicated support for a permit alternative that would result in limiting and/or reducing current levels of incidental mortality and seek compensation for practicably unavoidable seabird mortality if necessary.
FWS published its Final Environmental Assessment on August 20, 2012, concluding that the current level of take, which averages 54 Laysan and 20 Black-footed albatrosses annually (equivalent to less than 1 percent of the estimated breeding population of each species), does not pose a threat to the population or conservation status of either species. FWS therefore decided to authorize take at this level and add in a buffer to account for anomalous events. Under this permit, NMFS will not be required to take action to reduce albatross take in the fishery. Instead, they will be required to analyze existing data and tap other sources of information to improve their knowledge of when and how take occurs and investigate how that might be remedied.
Live caught birds
There is no incentive to reduce these practices if permits authorize take in such generous numbers. Furthermore, the permit does not require any offset or compensation from NMFS for avoidable take," added Wallace.
Restrict baited hooks
This increases the exposure of seabirds to baited hooks and leads to a higher chance of them being injured.
"A remedy for this problem does not require data analysis and multiple three-year permit terms to develop and implement. FWS has missed an opportunity to eliminate this unnecessary risk to albatrosses now," said Wallace.