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    ACAP Seabird Bycatch Working Group

    The Fouth Meeting of the ACAP’s Advisory Committee was held in Cape Town, South Africa from 22 – 25 August 2008. It was preceded by a meeting of the Seabird Bycatch Working Group (SBWG) on 17-18 August 2008. This paper provides a report on the SBWG meeting. The Working Group reviewed methods to reduce seabird bycatch in trawl fisheries, and noted that the body of work investigating and documenting mitigation measures in trawl fisheries is significantly less advanced than for longline fisheries. Consequently, new developments in this field in recent years are few. Seabird interactions with trawl vessels fell into two broad categories: those focused on the trawl warps, and those focused around trawl nets. For reducing seabird strikes on trawl warps, the use of bird-scaring lines has been proven to be the most effective mitigation device in the trawl fisheries in which comparative studies have been undertaken. However, the retention or strategic management of fish waste (offal and discards) was recommended as the most effective primary measure for bycatch reduction, and should be viewed as the best long-term solution to reducing seabird bycatch in trawl fisheries. Coincident with effective fish waste management, operational measures such as cleaning the net prior to shooting and reducing the time the net is on the surface at shooting and hauling should be viewed as best practice measures and incorporated into routine fishing activities. While a number of methods have been trialed to reduce the incidence of warp strikes, there continues to be the need for more work on effective measures for reducing seabird interactions with trawl nets. The SBWG also reviewed demersal longline mitigation methods. Two tables were developed that summarised bycatch mitigation measures for demersal longline fishing, and identified knowledge gaps and research priorities for this gear type. These tables were subsequently endorsed by the ACAP Advisory Committee as representing the current best scientific advice of the SBWG. The SBWG engaged in extensive discussion regarding the Advisory Committee’s collection of seabird bycatch data from the Parties. Dr Keith Reid from CCAMLR described the CCAMLR data submission and management system, and the fine scale analysis at the level of the fishery, by area, gear type and by vessel, that is carried out by CCAMLR on both target and bycatch species. The Working Group noted the comprehensive nature of the data collection and assessment process that has been developed by CCAMLR and agreed that it formed a useful model for ACAP, noting that an observer program with high levels of coverage had been critical to understanding bycatch problems and had been key to CCAMLR’s success in reducing bycatch in its fisheries. The model was entirely relevant to other RFMOs but could also be adopted by ACAP for assessment of summary bycatch information provided by ACAP Parties.