The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, or ACAP, is a legally binding international agreement promoting the conservation of several species of migratory seabirds. ACAP, which has 13 national signatories, promotes activities that minimize harm to albatrosses and petrels, improve research of albatross and petrel conservation, and increase public awareness of the dangers facing these storied species.
Why is ACAP needed?
Of the 22 species of albatross recognized by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 15 are threatened with extinction, and eight species are either endangered or critically endangered. More than half of all petrel species are threatened with extinction. Threats to seabirds include bycatch from longline fishing, especially from illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries in the Southern Ocean, as well as the introduction of invasive predators, and marine pollution.
What does the Act do?
The legislation authorizes the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to engage in activities that will improve conditions for albatrosses and petrels, including:
Control of non-native species
Research into the conservation of albatrosses and petrels
Development of programs to raise awareness of the issue
Bycatch reduction measures and research
The legislation does not expand or alter the enforcement scheme for albatrosses and petrels found within U.S. jurisdiction, because these species are already protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Domestic fisheries would not be subject to additional restrictions on their activities under the proposed legislation.
Instead, passing this legislation and joining ACAP creates leverage to help bring other nations up to our standards. This will make U.S. fisheries more competitive in the long-run.
Why should Congress act?
Protecting albatrosses and petrels necessitates international cooperation in regulating longline fishing and other activities. The United States is currently a world leader on seabird bycatch mitigation. By ratifying and formally joining ACAP, the U.S. would increase the Agreement’s international influence and resources, and would improve its ability to conserve seabirds. The United States would also be able to promote more stringent international regulations to level the playing field between domestic fisheries and international fisheries. The ratification of ACAP has enjoyed bipartisan support, including from former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
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