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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment

Australia Lodges World Albatross Alert

11 November 1996

The 11 albatross species which occur in the Southern Hemisphere, seven of which are at risk of extinction, have today been nominated by Australia for international conservation action.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill says Australia's proposal to list the species on the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, or Bonn Convention, is a concerted attempt to conserve the giant seabirds.

"Albatrosses are highly migratory, flying thousands of kilometres across the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Wandering Albatross, like those which breed on Macquarie Island, have been recorded as flying up to 50,000 km in 200 days.

"But the birds face an uncertain future. Incidental mortality associated with commercial fishing operations is the most serious threat currently facing albatross populations.

"Of these, longline fishing is the greatest threat, being known to kill at least 12 of the 14 recognised albatross species.

"Some longlines are 150 kilometres long and carry up to 3000 baited hooks. The albatrosses get caught on the hooks and drown as they attempt to take the bait.

"A 1991 study on albatross deaths in longline fisheries estimated that the Japanese tuna longline industry alone potentially killed 44,000 albatrosses a year.

"The Australian fishing industry also uses longline methods. Our industry has shown an understanding of the dangers posed to bird species such as the albatross and has been working to reduce that threat.

"The Government is currently working with the fishing industry, conservationists and researchers to develop a Threat Abatement Plan to mitigate the impacts of longline fishing bycatch in Australian waters.

" We need to build on the cooperative efforts with the fishing industry in Australia and attempt to bring an international focus to fight to save the albatross because Australian action alone will not save these beautiful birds."

Senator Hill says Australia's nomination, lodged with the Convention Secretariat in Bonn, is an important starting point for developing global cooperation to conserve the 11 species wherever they travel.

"This action will allow southern hemisphere countries which are linked by the great southern oceans to join together to conserve the albatrosses.

"Australia will play a leading role in developing cooperative research and monitoring activities to ensure that threats to their survival are minimised.

"The move places Australia at the forefront of international efforts to address the decline of these magnificent seabirds and is in accordance with the commitment made in the Coalition's Investing in our Natural Heritage statement."

The Bonn Convention is a global environmental convention which aims to conserve migratory animals and birds across their entire distribution range.

The species included in Australia's nomination are the Amsterdam Albatross, Wandering Albatross, Royal Albatross, Waved Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Buller's Albatross, Shy Albatross, Yellow-nosed Albatross, Grey-headed Albatross, Sooty Albatross and Light-mantled Albatross.

Contact: Matt Brown (Ministers Office) 06 277 7640 or 0419 693 515

David Kay (Department) 06 250 0240

Commonwealth of Australia