Reducing Seabird Bycatch in International Waters

The presence of "free food" in the form of offal and bait attracts many seabirds to fishing operations. While feeding, birds sometimes come into contact with fishing gear and are accidentally killed. For example, most birds taken during hook-and-line operations are attracted to the baited hooks when the gear is being set. These birds become hooked at the surface and are then dragged underwater, where they drown.

Seabirds behind fishing boat.


Beginning in 2002, several regional fisheries management organizations, or RFMOs, adopted and updated measures to reduce incidental seabird bycatch in longline and trawl fisheries.

The following reports from BirdLife International detail the distribution of seabirds and how RFMOs can protect them:

Measures to Reduce Seabird Bycatch

Seabirds on rocky cliff.

RFMOs have adopted binding conservation and management measures to reduce seabird bycatch. Below are links to the most recent versions of these measures, as well as links to older measures that have been superseded. Relevant non-binding measures are also provided.

Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna

  • 2011 Recommendation (PDF, 2 pages) to Mitigate the Impact on Ecologically Related Species of Fishing for Southern Bluefin Tuna (non-binding) 

Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources*

  • 2016 Conservation Measure 25-03 (PDF, 1 page) on Minimization of the Incidental Mortality of Seabirds in the Course of Trawl Fishing in the Convention Area
  • 2015 Conservation Measure 25-02 (PDF, 4 pages) on Minimization of the Incidental Mortality of Seabirds in the Course of Longline Fishing or Longline Fishing Research in the Convention Area
  • 2006 Resolution 22/XXV (PDF, 3 pages) on International Actions to Reduce the Incidental Mortality of Seabirds Arising from Fishing (non-binding)

Indian Ocean Tuna Commission

  • 2012 Resolution 12/06 (PDF, 5 pages) on Reducing Incidental Bycatch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries (effective July 1, 2014)

Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission*

  • 2011 Resolution C-11-02 (PDF, 6 pages) to Mitigate the Impact on Seabirds of Fishing for Species Covered by the IATTC

International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas*

South East Atlantic Fisheries Organization

South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization

Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission*

*Regional fishery management councils of which the United States is a member. The United States played a significant role in getting these RFMOs to adopt international binding measures to reduce seabird bycatch in international waters.

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