- At least 34,000 seabirds are killed annually in Africa’s Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME), a rich and biodiverse ecosystem that stretches up the west coast of South Africa and the entire of the Namibian and Angolan coast.
This was contained in a new report published by BirdLife South Africa and WWF South Africa. This is the first time that a report assesses the impact of longline fishing on vulnerable species foraging in BCLME.
The latest report estimated that as many as 34,000 seabirds, 4,200 sea turtles, and over 7 million demersal and pelagic sharks, rays and skates are killed annually.
Five migrant pelagic seabird species - Black-browed Albatross Thallasarche melanophris, Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross T. chlororhynchus and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross T. carteri, (all Endangered), Shy Albatross T. cauta (Near Threatened) and White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis (Vulnerable) – which occur in the Benguela Current seen are seen as the most susceptible to the impacts of fishing operations.
Also seriously affected is the Cape Gannet Morus capensis, a Benguela endemic now listed as vulnerable.
“This report provides a platform from which informed decisions can be made that will reduce the impact on these threatened species in the region,” Samantha Petersen, the Manager of BirdLife South Africa's Seabird Programme and the WWF Responsible Fisheries Programme, and author of papers in the report covering the impact on seabirds, and on measures to mitigate seabird mortality, believes.
Bird life experts say it will also provide practical recommendations such as the use of tori or bird-scaring lines with attached streamers which scare birds away from the baited hooks until they are under the water.
“Only by maintaining the integrity of the ecosystem can we ensure the sustainability of our fisheries and the survival of our vulnerable marine life.”
The report identifies specific recommendations for the three countries involved – South Africa, Nambia and Angola. But experts however raise concerns over the low level of compliance with fisheries permit conditions, thus requiring fishers to use bird-scaring lines, although in an encouraging development. South Africa, where a court recently fined US $350 for failing to use the fisheries permit conditions, has been blamed for this crime.
Experts suggest the inclusion of “bycatch” migration needs in Namibia’s fishing regulations. They also blame Angolan artisanal fishermen for deliberately catching Cape Gannets and White-chinned Petrels for food. To avert the situation, efforts should be focused on developing alternative sustainable livelihoods for coastal communities in Angola.
“The project has also been active in raising the level of awareness about this issue within the fishing industry, with workshops and training programmes,” says Petersen, while urging the governments of the three countries to take the findings seriously and commit themselves to implementing the new Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries by 2010.
“An EAF recognises the need to adopt an ecological approach which considers impacts on both the target and non-target species, as well as direct or indirect ecosystem effects of fishing operations. Only by maintaining the integrity of the ecosystem can we ensure the sustainability of our fisheries and the survival of our vulnerable marine life.”
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