New Action Plan proposed to protect seabirds

The European Commission presented an Action Plan that sets up a management framework to minimise seabird bycatch to the lowest levels practically possible. It consists of 30 recommended actions that focus on long line and static net fisheries where seabird bycatch which are known to be highest.

The European Commission proposed anAction Plan to address the problem of incidental catches of seabirds in fishing gears. It focuses on long line and static net fisheries where seabird bycatch are known to be highest, although other gears such as trawls and purse seines are also covered by the plan. It entails a wide range of elements under 30 recommended actions that are a combination of binding and non-binding measures. The rules will apply to EU fishing vessels inside and outside EU waters as well as non-EU vessels operating in EU waters. In March 2012, the Council already stressed the need to promote a more sustainable fisheries policy.

Some of these measures will be implemented at EU level while others need voluntary action by Member States or must be endorsed by Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) in fisheries outside EU waters. The Action Plan foresees both actions that can be implemented immediately and others that need a longer term commitment based on available evidence and scientific advice. The success of the Plan depends on the collective contributions of Member States, fishermen and NGOs.

According to the Commission, there is scientific evidence that high numbers of seabird species including albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters, auks, sea ducks and divers are being caught in fishing gear every year. Therefore, interactions between fisheries and seabirds are frequent and widespread leading to levels of incidental seabird mortality which pose a serious threat to many seabird populations and which have an adverse effect on fishing productivity and profitability.