Let’s not forget the seabirds on World Oceans Day!

(c)Marguerite Tarzia_Lithuania
World Oceans Day is a time to reflect on protecting the marine environment. (c) Marguerite Tarzia

Today marks World Oceans Day. The day we celebrate the beauty, the life and the amazing gift that is our oceans.

But these wonderful oceans, which do everything from mitigating climate change and regulating the earth’s temperature to providing food and other resources for marine species and humans, are under threat. So today we should think about how we can change human activities so that they have as little impact as possible on the marine environment. We need to think about oil pollution, eutrophication, plastic pollution, overfishing, mineral extraction and bycatch of several marine animals, all caused by human activities.

We’d like to focus on one component of the oceans that we see in the sky above them – seabirds. They range from the clumsy Atlantic Puffin and the Common Seagull at our ports, to the penguins who spend most of their time swimming in water and the majestic albatrosses – one of the longest living birds in the world.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the Albatross Task Force – a group of experts who spend their time in vessels across the world to help fishers mitigate their impact on seabirds. Since its launch in 2006, the Albatross Task Force has been extremely successful. For example, albatross bycatch has been reduced by 99% in the South African hake trawl fishery.

We can also achieve the same in Europe, where it is estimated that more than 200,000 seabirds die every year from being bycaught. Having established the Seabird Task Force in Europe, we are now working with fishers in Lithuania, Spain, Poland and Portugal to help them adapt their vessels and minimise their impact on the marine environment while also monitoring bycatch. This work will be fundamental for when new regulation is in place (predicted for the end of 2017) and most vessels will need to mitigate against seabird bycatch.

Today, on World Oceans Day, let’s celebrate the beautiful oceans we have, and the hard work everyone is doing to save them.

Bruna Campos, BirdLife Europe, bruna.campos@birdlife.org

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