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International Seabird Conservation

Seabirds flock around a vessel

Black-browed albatross

Southern giant petrel

Seabirds spend much of their lives over the open ocean, returning to land only to breed and raise young. Because seabirds migrate long distances, even across entire oceans, effective seabird conservation requires international cooperation. While albatross and petrels face threats both at sea and on land, interactions with fisheries are currently considered to be among the most serious. Although they can be caught in virtually any type of fishing gear, albatrosses and petrels are most often taken in longline fisheries. They are vulnerable to getting hooked, entangled in fishing gear, and ingesting offal (processed fish scraps) containing hooks from fishing operations.

International Cooperation is Key

NOAA Fisheries works to mitigate the incidental catch of seabirds in fisheries by working closely with many domestic and international partners. We work internationally through regional fishery management organizations and with countries that have vessels overlapping with seabird distribution to promote seabird conservation. For example, the United States played a significant role in the adoption of international binding measures at several regional fisheries management organizations to reduce seabird bycatch in international waters. In these fora, the United States emphasizes the need for improved bycatch data via onboard observer programs, targeted approaches to reducing bycatch, and risk adverse decision-making based on the conservation needs of many affected species. 

Although not a member, the United States actively participates in the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels Exit (ACAP), the only multilateral agreement that coordinates international activity to mitigate threats to albatross and petrel populations.  ACAP came into force in February 2004 and currently has 13 member countries and covers 31 species of albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters. Four species covered by ACAP breed on U.S. soil or forage in U.S. waters, including the  black-footed albatross, laysan albatross, and the endangered short-tailed albatross, and the pink-footed shearwater. The United States will continue to support ACAP’s efforts and will continue activities related to formally joining ACAP so we may work with other key nations more effectively on measures for reducing seabird bycatch worldwide.

For questions about international seabird conservation, please contact Mi Ae Kim (

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