EU launch plan to reduce bycatch of seabirds across EU19/11/2012 17:16:15 EU plan launched to halt seabird killing after decade-long campaign
November, 2012. After a long fight, the European Commission has finally launched an EU Plan of Action to reduce seabird bycatch: the incidental deaths of seabirds ensnared in fishing gears.
2 million sea birds killed
Martin Harper, Director of RSPB Conservation 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." He continued: "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."
The EU Seabird Plan of Action aims to minimise and, where possible, eliminate the bycatch of seabirds in EU and external waters. It sets out to achieve this through a range of actions, notably calling on vessels to apply mitigation measures to prevent seabirds coming into contact with fishing gears. Other key areas cover research and development, and awareness-raising and training for fishermen. The RSPB considers the plan to be best practice, drawing heavily on other regions of the world where non-EU fleets have already embraced the often simple solutions proven to stop seabirds being killed.
Euan Dunn, Head of Marine Policy at the RSPB, UK, stated: "Seabirds are among our most visible and iconic indicators of ocean health, and experience tells us that responsible fishermen would much rather catch fish than birds, if only they had the means to do so. This desperately overdue EU Seabird Plan of Action now gives Member States and the fishing industry a golden opportunity to do that, and we trust they will seize it. For the most threatened species like Balearic shearwater there is no time to waste so we need emergency action to tackle their fatal attraction to fishing gear."
Spanish longline fishery
It is therefore a vital first step that the Seabird Action Plan has finally seen the light of day. Following the European Commission's proposal, it will be up to Member States to endorse the plan in Council, and then to translate it into effective measures in their national waters and also on the high seas, governed by the tuna Commissions, where EU-flagged vessels also roam.