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Joint Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon. Dr David Kemp
Australian Minister for Trade
The Hon. Mark Vaile
6 November 2003
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, and Minister for Trade, Mark Vaile (on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs), today welcomed South Africa's signing of the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels - an international agreement to protect the world's rarest seabirds.
Australia is at the forefront in conserving Southern Hemisphere albatrosses and petrels, signing the Agreement in 2001. South Africa is the fifth country to become a Party, and follows New Zealand in 2001 and Ecuador and Spain earlier this year. The Agreement will enter into force on 1 February 2004.
South Africa is home to many populations of these seabirds. It is a world leader in research and conservation initiatives crucial to these species. The Ministers praised South Africa's key role in negotiation of the Agreement.
"The Agreement's entry into force will allow members to implement an action plan to protect critical habitat, control non-native species detrimental to albatrosses and petrels, introduce measures to reduce the incidental catch of seabirds in long-line fisheries, and support research into the effective conservation of albatrosses and petrels," Dr Kemp said.
"The Agreement also provides a central point for the collection and analysis of data that will be used to develop a comprehensive record of albatross and petrel populations globally."
Mr Vaile added: "The action taken under the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels will help to conserve and protect these seabirds from extinction. Australia urges all States and fishing nations that interact with albatrosses and petrels to work with Parties to ensure the survival of these important species."
Mr Vaile said Australia will continue to act as the Interim Secretariat for the Agreement until the first meeting of the parties next year, when the location of the permanent secretariat is determined by the Parties.
"Ratification of this important conservation Agreement delivers on a Howard Government election commitment to provide more effective protection for these magnificent wanderers of the ocean," he said.
Albatrosses and petrels are threatened globally at sea and on land. Direct contact with fishing operations, eating or being entangled in marine debris, pollution and over-fishing of their prey are major threats. In breeding colonies, they are threatened by predators, habitat damage and competition with other animals for nest space, parasites and disease.
"The greatest threat is ensnarement in long-line fishing operations", Dr Kemp said. "Scientists estimate that thousands of seabirds have been killed from long-line fishing practices in the Southern Hemisphere in the last three years.
South Africa signed the Agreement today at a ceremony at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra.
Mr Vaile also launched a major exhibition, which examines Australia's role in the development of the Antarctic Treaty System. Antarctica - Treaty Territory features a series of striking panels and historical images, which chronicles engagement in Antarctic from its discovery and exploration, to international cooperation on its conservation.
Albatrosses and Petrels feeding