Chile moves to protect seabirds


The Chilean Government has taken a vital step towards preventing thousands of needless seabird deaths.

At the end of August, the government introduced new regulations that will require a number of major trawler fleets to implement measures that reduce seabird bycatch. This not only includes the use of bird-scaring lines, which keep birds away from the trawl cables that can break their wings and kill them, but also other measures, including 'snatch blocks' to reduce the risk of albatrosses colliding with the net monitoring cable, and limits to discarding offal, which attracts birds to fishing vessels in the first place.

These regulations are the culmination of over a decade of work from the Albatross Task Force (ATF) team in Chile, who have worked alongside fishers, researchers and the national observer programmes of the Chilean Fisheries Development Institute (IFOP) and the Undersecretariat of Fisheries (SUBPESCA) to draw attention to the issue of seabird bycatch by testing and demonstrating the simple ways that these unnecessary deaths can be avoided.

IFOP researchers testing bird-scaring lines on a government research vessel (Nahuel Chavez / BirdLife International).

Cristián Suazo, leader of ATF-Chile, commented: "The announcement of these new regulations is wonderful news for the many albatrosses and petrels that use the seas around Chile to find food for themselves and their chicks.

"This includes birds that breed both in our remote southern colonies and on the other side of the Pacific in New Zealand."

He also emphasised that it's now important for these measures to be properly implemented across the fleets. "The regulations say all the right things – now it's time to ensure that these measures are in place and up to the necessary standard as soon as possible. The ATF team stand ready to assist and support industry to make that happen," he said.

Albatrosses, like this Grey-headed, will benefit from the Chilean government's new regulations (Laurent Demongin).

This isn't just an important landmark for BirdLife International's work in Chile, but for the ATF programme worldwide. Of the original 10 target fisheries to introduce bycatch regulations, which are the fundamental foundation of long-term and sustained reductions in seabird bycatch, this is the last.

"It will obviously be important that these regulations are matched with adequate monitoring and compliance efforts from the authorities," said Rory Crawford, Bycatch Programme Manager for the BirdLife Marine Programme. "So far though, the signs are very good that this will be the case in Chile. We'd like to congratulate the Chilean Government for introducing these regulations and look forward to their monitoring showing that they have resulted in many more albatrosses continuing to soar over the oceans in years to come."