Seabird sessions

Australians heading to the beach for summer are likely familiar with coastal seabirds – gulls, terns, and for the lucky ones, perhaps a penguin sighting! Further offshore, recreational and commercial fishers might come across albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters.

Black-browed Albatross

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority’s (AFMA) Claire Wallis recently attended and presented at the Seabird Bycatch Working Group and the Advisory Committee to the Agreement on Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) where Claire submitted a paper on electronic monitoring in Commonwealth fisheries – a monitoring system that uses cameras and sensors to record fishing operations. While ACAP is still in the process of determining best practice advice on electronic monitoring, Australia is one of the first member countries to implement this tool. In the future, accurate electronic monitoring data might be used to support updated risk assessments for seabirds, and improve compliance with measures designed to further protect them in addition to existing arrangements.

Further to providing an update on how AFMA is using new technologies to improve data collection, attending ACAP provided an opportunity to network and hear from a range of fishery gear specialists, seabird scientists, environmental non-government organisations, and other domestic and international government officials, that, like AFMA, are working to reduce the impacts of fishing activity on seabird populations.

ACAP provides a focus for international cooperation and the exchange of information and expertise in seabird science and management. The best practice advice assessed and recommended by ACAP is frequently used as the basis for minimum seabird mitigation requirements through Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, which in turn impact Australia’s domestic fishing fleets.

All seabirds are protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, and to help reduce impacts of commercial fishing operations on the long term conservation status of these animals, AFMA requires Commonwealth fishing operators to use a variety of seabird mitigation devices.

Having good preventative measures in place in conjunction with high levels of monitoring, regular reporting, and using the latest technology contributes to AFMA’s commitment to reducing the impacts of commercial fishing operations on seabirds.

Further information on seabird mitigation and management in Commonwealth fisheries can be found on the AFMA website at afma.gov.au