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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

6 February 2001


Southern Ocean countries have agreed to an historic Australian initiative for the conservation of Southern Hemisphere albatrosses and petrels.

Senator Hill said the agreement, made at the international albatross meeting hosted by the South African Government in Cape Town last week, was a major commitment to solving the plight of these magnificent seabirds.

"Twelve countries from around the world joined forces at this meeting - chaired by Australia - to discuss the best ways of protecting Southern Hemisphere albatrosses and petrels," Senator Hill said.

The meeting resolved to introduce a regional agreement under the Bonn Convention on the conservation of migratory species of wild animals.

"This agreement is designed to provide countries around the world with vital new tools to protect albatrosses and petrels," Senator Hill said.

"Scientists have estimated that approximately 1000 seabirds are killed each day by long-line fishing alone. This is a stark reminder of the scale of the problem and the need for rapid conservation actions to protect these species."

The agreement will lead to the establishment of an international advisory committee to report annually on the status, progress and techniques used to control longlining and to protect albatross and petrel habitat.

It will also develop conservation guidelines to create consistent measures throughout the Southern Hemisphere.

Senator Hill said delegates agreed to give early consideration to becoming party to the Agreement, and to encourage other Range States not represented at the meeting, to also become party.

"It is essential that all of the Range States which these species pass through plan and work together to ensure their survival," Senator Hill said.

"Australia has taken a lead role in the international conservation of Southern Hemisphere albatrosses and our pursuit of an international conservation agreement for albatrosses and petrels is one in a string of Australian initiatives on albatross conservation.

"I am also pleased to join Fisheries Minister Warren Truss in announcing new fisheries management regulations to reduce the incidental catch (or bycatch) of seabirds in longline fishing. These regulations are an important step in meeting the requirements of the Government's Threat Abatement Plan (TAP) for seabirds," Senator Hill said.

"Longline fishing is recognised as the main threat to the health of albatross and other seabirds. The birds are attracted to the baits on the longline hooks, dive to grab the baits as they sink, and then are dragged under the water and drown.

"Under the most significant measure in the new regulations, tuna operators must set their longlines at night in the waters south of latitude 30oS, the main area of concern for seabird bycatch as seabirds are less active after dark.

"Other measures introduced by the regulations require all tuna longline vessels to carry a "tori pole" device to scare seabirds and make their use mandatory south of latitude 30oS. There will also be requirements for tuna operators in southern waters to thaw baits so they sink more quickly, and guidelines on the appropriate discharge of offal.

"Thanks to initiatives such as this and the level of global cooperation seen at the Cape Town meeting, we are making great progress on the long-term conservation of Southern Hemisphere albatrosses and petrels."

Senator Hill congratulated Australian negotiators on the outcome.

6 February 2001

Photograph of albatross caught in longline and general pics of albatross available.

Belinda Huppatz (Senator Hill) (02) 6277 7640 or 0419 258 364
Anne-Marie Delahunt (Environment Australia) 0412 446 136

Commonwealth of Australia