New Zealand and Chile will help protect vulnerable seabirds, including the critically endangered Antipodean albatross.
A cooperative arrangement was signed today by Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, on behalf of Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage and Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash, and the Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs, Roberto Ampuero, who is visiting New Zealand alongside President Sebastián Piñera.
It establishes a cooperative partnership between the Department of Conservation and the Ministry for Primary Industries in New Zealand, and Chile’s Undersecretariat of Fisheries and Aquaculture, and Ministry of Environment.
“This arrangement marks a significant milestone in tackling the decline of our most vulnerable seabirds and formalises collaboration between New Zealand and Chile on this important issue,” Eugenie Sage said.
Stuart Nash said “this arrangement will enable better exchange of information between our two fishing nations and support greater innovation that will allow us to succeed in our shared goal of reducing albatross bycatch”.
“Central to the arrangement is establishing a Plan of Action for the conservation of Antipodean albatross, which like many other New Zealand endemic seabirds, breeds in New Zealand and forages in waters off Chile in the non-breeding season” said Eugenie Sage.
“These amazing birds roam vast distances across the ocean and their population will no longer be viable in the next 20 years unless we stop the devastating decline in their numbers.”
The biggest threat to these seabirds comes from fishing in the international waters between the two countries, particularly as bycatch in surface longline fisheries.
An important component of the arrangement will be increased cooperation through Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, which govern fishing on the high seas.
“We will be engaging actively with these organisations to improve ways of preventing these precious birds being caught on fishing lines,” Eugenie Sage said.
“We welcome a closer association with Chile and look forward to a closer association in and around the regional fisheries meetings” Stuart Nash said.
The Antipodean albatross has undergone an alarming decline in recent years and the species is listed as Nationally Critical by the Department of Conservation, the highest threat classification ranking. They have also been identified as a population of global priority conservation concern by the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP), an international body that seeks to conserve albatrosses and petrels.
Antipodean albatross breed in New Zealand’s remote Subantarctic Islands. Since 2004, the population has been declining at a rate of 6% a year for males and 12% a year for females.
Recent shifts in foraging ranges have seen the birds travel further offshore to feed. The birds are now seen interacting with fisheries on the high seas, including the international waters between New Zealand and Chile.
Not only is the population in decline, but there is also a sex imbalance, with significantly fewer females in the population, and reduced breeding success.
These seabirds are long lived and slow breeding, which makes them particularly susceptible to human induced threats.
Lack of knowledge on diet, dietary shifts, life history and other threats – hopefully some of which can be addressed through the arrangement with Chile.