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New WCPFC Rule For Tuna Longliners Helps Protect Albatross Birds Pacific , December 10, 12

An international fisheries agreement passed at the meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), could help prevent the extinction of some of the world’s biggest seabird species, a New Zealand conservation group announced Friday.
The agreement would affect tuna longliners, which typically set thousands of hooks each day on lines that could extend more than 100 km, operating south of 30 degrees south in areas where albatrosses are known to feed.

Under the resolution, vessels would have to adopt two of three techniques to prevent the birds swallowing their hooks and drowning. They could choose between using bird streamers to scare off birds, adding weights to make hooks sink more quickly, or setting hooks at night, when most birds are less active.

Longlining was believed to be the main reason that 17 of the world’s 22 species of albatrosses could soon become extinct.

Forest & Bird seabird advocate Karen Baird, said this decision could reduce the number of albatrosses killed by 80 percent, making the difference between several species of albatross surviving or disappearing forever.

According to New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC), 14 of the world’s albatross species nest and raise their young in New Zealand, more than anywhere else in the world.

Six of the species that nested in New Zealand were in decline, and the WCPFC’s new rule could apply in New Zealand waters and those of other member countries from July 2014, if adopted, Baird said.

“Already, Indian and Atlantic Ocean management authorities have set similar rules, and the other Pacific zones are set to follow suit,” she said.