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


25 January 1998

Requirements to set lines at night and to use weights are among the new measures being proposed by the Howard Government to reduce the mortality of seabirds by longline fishing.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has issued for public comment a threat abatement plan for the incidental catch of seabirds, such as albatrosses, during longline fishing.

The plan has been developed following the successful move by the Howard Government to have all of the species of southern hemisphere albatrosses listed under the international Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species (the Bonn Convention).

The incidental capture of seabirds on longlines is listed as a threatening process under the Commonwealth Endangered Species Act.

Senator Hill says the issue is being addressed cooperatively between the government, the fishing industry and conservation groups.

"The input of the fishing industry along with conservation groups to this draft plan has provided our best chance of overcoming the tragically high incidence of seabird by-catch.

"Some longlines are 150 kilometres long and carry up to 3000 baited hooks. Seabirds are attracted by the bait and are caught on the hooks and drown.

"It has been estimated that more than 40,000 Albatrosses drown each year around the southern oceans from being hooked on these longlines.

"Many of the seabirds, such as albatrosses and giant petrels, that fall victim to longlines are endangered or vulnerable. The Federal Government's plan aims to reduce by 90 per cent the number of seabirds caught in longlines in the Australian Fishing Zone within the next five years."

"Our ultimate aim, however, is to achieve a zero by-catch of seabirds, especially threatened albatross and giant petrel species, and bring to an end the horrible deaths suffered by these beautiful birds

"The finalised plan will provide an international benchmark for efforts to conserve seabirds. Australia will continue to be at the forefront of the global effort to end the tragic slaughter of these graceful creatures."

Threat abatement strategies that have been developed to address this problem include:

Copies of the Threat Abatement Plan for the incidental catch of seabirds during longline fishing operations are available from Environment Australia on 02 6250 0713.

The plan will be open to public comment for a period of three months.

Media contact: Matt Brown (Senator Hill) (02) 6277 7640; 0419 693 515
Department contact: David Kay (Environment Australia) (02) 6250 0240

January 25, 1998

Commonwealth of Australia