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Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

30 April 2002

Spain Follows Australia's Lead in the Protection of Albatrosses and Petrels

Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today commended Spain for signing on to the international Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels.

Dr Kemp said Spain's decision marks a major step forward in the fight to protect these migratory birds.

"The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels was initiated by Australia in 1997 and is designed to provide countries from around the world with the information and techniques needed to protect these magnificent but severely threatened birds," Dr Kemp said.

"Spain, as a major fishing country, interacts with many seabirds during its fishing activities, including the threatened albatrosses and petrels which forage in the Southern Ocean. Spain's signing today signifies the commitment they have towards minimising any threats their fishing activities may have on these birds."

While Australian and New Zealand have led the way by ratifying the Agreement, Spain is the first major fishing nation to recognise the importance of the Agreement in the conservation of these important ocean wanderers.

At a recent meeting of APEC nations in Korea, Dr Kemp said, "Australia highly recommends the Agreement to APEC Members as an effective framework for the conservation of these vulnerable species."

"The most pervasive threat to these magnificent birds is the devastating impact of longline fishing. Scientists have estimated that about one quarter of a million seabirds have died in the last three years as a result of longline fishing practices in the Southern Hemisphere," Dr Kemp said.

"I strongly encourage all fishing nations that interact with albatrosses and petrels to follow Spain's example and commit themselves to reducing the impacts of their activities on the ongoing survival of these species throughout the southern ocean."

The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels is the first integrated and holistic approach to albatross and petrel conservation. The Agreement contains guidelines for albatross and petrel conservation throughout the Southern Hemisphere to better coordinate conservation actions on land and at sea.

The Agreement would also provide a central point for the collection and analysis of data, allowing for a more comprehensive record of albatross and petrel populations globally.

His Excellency, Mr José Ramón Barañano, Ambassador of Spain, signed the Agreement on behalf of his country at a ceremony in Canberra today.

Spain is the eighth country to sign the international Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels. Seven other countries signed the Agreement during an official signing ceremony in June 2001 (Australia, Brazil, Chile, France, New Zealand, Peru and the United Kingdom). The Agreement requires the ratification of five countries to enter into force.

In Australia there are 23 species of albatrosses and giant petrel species, 19 of which are listed as threatened under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. On-ground protection for these important birds is provided through the implementation of a Recovery Plan for Albatrosses and Giant Petrels.

The Howard Government is actively working with the international community, the fishing industry, conservationists and researchers to implement the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels. These efforts have already produced significant results, with the reduction of sea bird bycatch in the sub-Antarctic waters south of Australia by 95 per cent over the last five years.

Media contact:
Catherine Job 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

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