UK blocks plan to save albatross

Ministers accused of undermining sea bird convention, while Commons committee investigates clean rivers U-turn

A A A

Global efforts to prevent hundreds of thousands of rare albatrosses being killed by tuna fishing have been thwarted because Britain has failed to ratify a new treaty, conservationists have claimed.

Global efforts to prevent hundreds of thousands of rare albatrosses being killed by tuna fishing have been thwarted because Britain has failed to ratify a new treaty, conservationists have claimed.

The convention comes into force today and marks the first attempt to stop the deaths of about 300,000 threatened albatrosses and petrels on "long-line" tuna fishery hooks each year, including 19 species of albatross close to extinction.

These fisheries, which exist to catch highly prized, endangered bluefin tuna and Patagonian toothfish for the US and Far Eastern fish and sushi markets, use "long lines" that stretch for up to 80 miles. Many of the boats involved are illegal, sailing under flags of convenience.

Senior ornithologists at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds warned that efforts to stop the bird deaths have been severely weakened because the UK has not endorsed the new treaty. Britain's credibility as a champion of marine conservation has also been damaged.

Britain's involvement in the treaty is seen as crucial because it owns many of the most significant breeding grounds for rare albatrosses in the south Atlantic, such as Tristan de Cunha, the Falklands, South Georgia and parts of the Antarctic.

Britain played a leading role in drafting the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels. It chaired the negotiations that set up the agreement in February 2001, and ministers have regularly pledged they would implement its measures.

However, unexpected legal and political wrangles have meant that Britain has been unable formally to adopt the treaty, which has meant it has come into force at least a year later than expected.

The treaty has now been triggered only because South Africa formally ratified the agreement late last year, joining Ecuador, Australia, New Zealand and Spain.

John O'Sullivan, the RSPB's international treaties adviser, said: "Albatross and petrel are dying in their tens of thousands, and any delay is bound to lead to more deaths."

He said the delays meant that the first meeting to open talks on what kind of safety measures should be introduced would not be held until October at the earliest.

The spectacled petrel is causing particular concern for conservationists. It is one of two "critically endangered" birds in the UK's overseas territories. Only 4,000 pairs survive on Tristan de Cunha, but about 750 birds are killed every year off Brazil's coast alone. Elsewhere in the UK's territories, numbers of wandering, black-browed and grey-headed Atlantic yellow-nosed and sooty albatrosses are all in decline. However, since signing the treaty in 2001, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has encountered a series of legal and political obstacles that it failed to predict.

Defra discovered that the measures included in the treaty could clash with European Union rules on trade. It also found it was more complicated than originally thought for Whitehall to control the laws and behaviour of territories such as the Falklands and Tristan de Cunha.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in the leaked trailer for Zoolander 2
film
Sport
footballArsenal take the Community Shield thanks to a sensational strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arts and Entertainment
Gemma Chan as synth Anita in Humans
film
News
Keeping it friendly: Tom Cruise on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ensemble cast: Jamie McCartney with ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’
artBritish artist Jamie McCartney explains a work that is designed to put women's minds at rest
News
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen