Govt aims for better protection of seabirds

A toroa/southern royal albatross, one of New Zealand’s seabird species. Photo: Ed Dunens.

Better protection for seabirds is being put in place with a new National Plan of Action to reduce fishing-related captures announced by the government.

The National Plan of Action for Seabirds 2020 outlines our commitment to reduce fishing-related captures and associated seabird deaths. The new plan follows wide public consultation launched in November last year.

“The plan focuses on innovative solutions and education to reduce seabird bycatch. It seeks to ensure fishing operators know how to avoid catching seabirds and take the appropriate steps to do so,” says Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage says, “Aotearoa/New Zealand is a global hotspot for seabirds, including iconic albatross and petrel species that fly thousands of kilometres across the world’s oceans. The actions we take to look after them in New Zealand have a global impact.”

“Seabirds are among the most threatened groups of birds globally. Fisheries bycatch is one of the greatest threats to many of them, along with invasive predators, disease, pollution, a changing climate and associated environmental change. That’s why the focus of the Action Plan is to reduce seabird deaths from fishing bycatch.”

Nash says, “The new National Plan of Action for seabirds plan will support all fishing interests to develop new bycatch mitigation practices and improve practices already in use. These include bird-scaring lines, weighted longlines, fishing at night, avoiding areas important to seabirds, and reducing discharge that attracts birds to fishing boats.”


“Some innovative solutions are already being used. Many current measures have come from industry, who have the technical knowledge needed for workable solutions.


“The Action Plan has a vision of New Zealanders work toward zero fishing related seabird mortalities. We expect to see all fishers and the industry doing as much as they can to achieve this.”


Sage says, “The new Action Plan will prompt species-specific actions where there is particular concern about threats to seabird populations. This has occurred already for Antipodean albatross and black petrels and is being done for hoiho (yellow-eyed penguin).”


“The plan requires all fishing vessels at risk of accidentally catching seabirds to create risk management plans for protected species. These plans will be audited and regularly monitored against government standards” says Nash.


New Zealand is a global centre of seabird diversity with about 145 of the world’s 346 seabird species using New Zealand waters and 95 species breeding here. New Zealand has more endemic breeding species than any other country in the world, 90 per cent of them are threatened, or at risk of extinction.

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