Australia hosts historic talks to save threatened seabirds

6 November 2004

International efforts to conserve some of the world's most threatened seabirds – albatrosses and petrels – will be stepped up at a historic international meeting in Hobart starting tomorrow.

The Environment Minister, Senator Ian Campbell, said Australia was at the forefront of efforts internationally to save albatrosses and petrels from the risk of extinction from the actions of humans.

"Wandering albatrosses have the greatest wing span of any bird and they are consummate flyers and ocean navigators," he said.

"Australia is hosting this meeting because we believe that more can be done to protect these birds whose journeys have inspired mariners for years and continue to link Southern Hemisphere countries.

"This week's meeting marks a major milestone bringing together for the first time the Parties for the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels."
Six countries have ratified the Agreement — Australia, New Zealand, Ecuador, Spain, UK and South Africa — which came into force in February this year.

Senator Campbell said the biggest threat to albatrosses and petrels was the devastating impact of longline fishing, still pursued by a number of countries.

"Scientists estimate thousands of these magnificent seabirds are killed by longline fishing practices in the Southern Hemisphere each year," he said. "On some subantarctic islands the breeding populations of some species can now be numbered on one hand.

"Losses of this scale are unsustainable and will lead to rapid extinction if not checked."

An Action Plan under the Agreement seeks to reduce the impacts of longline fishing, tackle emergency situations where a particular species of albatross or petrel is in rapid decline and control or eradicate non-native species threatening breeding colonies.

The Agreement also includes provisions for monitoring and managing seabird populations, the monitoring of conservation measures and encourages new research programs.

"This week's talks will discuss the priority actions and activities and strategies that each country can implement to help with the valuable conservation work," Senator Campbell said.

"The protection of albatrosses and petrels and their habitat cannot be achieved by one country alone so we are hopeful the meeting will encourage others to join the fight."