Wildlife & Biodiversity

Protect migratory marine species from fish aggregating devices, pollution: COP14 shares guidelines

Draft decisions acknowledge concerns regarding impact on marine, aquatic life due to human disturbances  

By Himanshu Nitnaware
Published: Thursday 15 February 2024
Photo: iStock

On February 14, the 14th Conference of Parties (COP14) to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) directed countries to address pollution-induced threats impacting the survival, health and welfare of migratory marine species. The focus was on developing conservation plans that consider sub-lethal effects on behavior, health and reproduction.

Outcomes emerged from discussions held during the ongoing COP14. Parties were tasked with describing and publicising threats to marine species and habitats, developing actions considering feeding, breeding and migratory grounds.

COP14 mandated the identification of habitats and populations affected by chronic pollution threats, establishing rapid-response systems for acute pollution issues like plastic pellets, oil spills or chemical spills. 

It also directed the scientific council to analyse forms of pollution, such as marine noise and light, affecting CMS-listed marine species and their cumulative impacts.

Concerning plastic pollution, COP14 instructed work in conjunction with implementing decisions and expert workshops to identify priority species, populations and habitats for immediate action based on review findings.

On the second day, COP14 discussed fish aggregating devices (FAD), encouraging action against potential negative impacts. Parties were directed to address CMS-listed species like rays, marine mammals, sharks and turtles that might be impacted by FADs, considering pollution, ghost fishing, beaching and transformation into marine debris.

The directive ensured FADs within party jurisdictions are non-entangling, subject to regular inspection and located away from shipping routes or areas conflicting with other fisheries and migratory routes. Vessels must be marked, monitored, and retrieved in environmentally suitable locations, deploying FADs when beaching is less likely and disposing of them appropriately after use.

Draft decisions included urging fisheries to use naturally degradable materials for FADs, employ real-time lost gear reporting, develop biodegradable FADs, conduct cleanups for abandoned FADs and address the issue of ghost nets.

COP14 expressed concerns about recreational in-water interaction due to growing tourism impacting aquatic wildlife, with potential severe conservation consequences. Recognising the sensitivity of aquatic species to disturbances and risks of disease transmission, COP14 urged parties to adopt necessary measures, such as national guidelines, codes of conduct and legislations where interactive activities occur.

Encouraging parties to ensure minimal impacts on animal species with exposure and prevent negative effects on long-term survival, COP14 emphasised the importance of sharing information with decision-makers in real-time to address the impacts as they occur.

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