ACAP - Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses & Petrels|
Leach's Storm Petrel by Michael Woodruff
The most important threats to albatrosses and petrels are mortality resulting from interactions with fisheries, losing nests to introduced predators on breeding islands, habitat loss, and exposure to contaminants. Solving these problems requires coordinated efforts by governments, scientists, fishermen, and NGOs.
ACAP is the foremost international agreement bringing countries together to reduce these threats and to ensure the future existence of highly migratory albatross and petrel species. ACAP brings together fishing nations to protect albatrosses and petrels at scales relevant to these wide-ranging birds. ACAP also takes a comprehensive ecosystem approach to management, dealing with problems on several fronts at once. This means that if a species is in trouble, the responsibility to protect it does not fall on just one sector; instead, the responsibility is shared.
Since opening for signatures in 2001, ACAP has achieved an international commitment to protect albatrosses and petrels from 11 signatories and 9 ratifying countries .
How are our seabirds?
The United States has demonstrated an impressive commitment to healthy oceans, and we are a proud leader of global seabird conservation. Through collaborative efforts by fishermen, the National Marine Fisheries Service, research collaborations such as Sea Grant, and NGOs, the United States has greatly improved its seabird management. For instance, accidental deaths of seabirds in Alaska have decreased eightfold since 1998. There has also been a precipitous decline in the numbers of albatrosses killed in Hawaii's pelagic longlining fisheries.
The United States participated actively in the negotiation of ACAP because we recognize its importance, and because we are a "range state" for several of the species. These same interests have prompted the United States to participate as an observer in ACAP meetings since it entered into force.
Why should the United States ratify ACAP?
As signatories to ACAP, the United States would be able to bring its expertise and leadership to bear with the power to vote, lead working groups, propose amendments, and influence the future of the agreement. We would receive recognition for the progress we have made, and gain an official vehicle for offering our support to countries just beginning the task of conserving oceanic bird species.
Because albatrosses and petrels cover enormous areas and interact with fisheries from many nations, permanent solutions must be international . No matter how much the United States does within its own borders, the birds will remain endangered if all fishing nations do not work together to reduce mortality.
Furthermore, although the United States has met many of the challenges of safeguarding its seabirds, the process was not easy or free. U.S. fishermen comply with regulations that are not met by most nations, and we owe it to them to try to level the playing field. ACAP gives us an opportunity to help develop international standards for interactions between seabirds and fisheries.
What would signing ACAP mean to the United States and its fisheries?
U.S. federal laws, such as the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management and Conservation Act, already cover the fundamental provisions of ACAP. The treaty would unify existing programs, but would not entail substantive changes in U.S. regulations.