Plan of action to protect seabirds

A proposed national plan of action to reduce the number of seabirds caught in fisheries is being circulated for public feedback.

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage say New Zealand is a global centre of seabird diversity with about 145 species in our waters. It has more endemic breeding species than any other country in the world.

“Seabirds are amongst 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,” says Eugenie Sage.

Fisheries New Zealand and the Department of Conservation have reviewed and updated the National Plan of Action for Seabirds (NPOA) with input from an advisory group of stakeholders.  

The draft National Plan of Action plan outlines the Government’s commitment to reducing fishing-related captures of seabirds, with clear goals and objectives, supported by an implementation plan.

“Around 90 percent of seabirds that breed in New Zealand are threatened or at risk of extinction. While progress is occurring, there is much work to do to improve that picture over time and better protect our collective taonga,” says Eugenie Sage

“We are committed to reducing bycatch of seabirds in our fisheries and the plan has tools to do that and will enable measurement and reporting on progress.

“The draft National Plan of Action proposes risk management plans for all fishing vessels that are at risk of accidentally catching seabirds. We will verify that plans meet government standards to make sure fishers are using the most effective mitigation for their operations,” says Stuart Nash.

“The new action plan will prompt species-specific actions where there is any concern or where there are threats to seabird populations. We have already done for hoiho (yellow-eyed penguin), Antipodean albatross, and black petrels.

“Fishing operators don’t set out to catch seabirds. We all want to see increased efforts to reduce bycatch, and more innovative fishing methods. We have seen some great solutions developed by people within the industry, but everyone now should get involved,” he says.

“This NPOA will support and guide operators to develop new bycatch mitigation practices. These would be in addition to practices we are already familiar with, like bird-scaring lines, weighted longlines, fishing at night, avoiding areas important to seabirds and reducing discharge that attracts birds to fishing boats,” says Stuart Nash.

“The use of a hook-shielding device on surface longlines, is just one example of an innovative approach to reduce risk to vulnerable seabirds including Antipodean albatross,” says Eugenie Sage.

“Funding from Budget 2018 has enabled the purchase of 4,000 of these hook shielding devices so far for longline fishing vessels, which will help reduce captures of these magnificent birds.”

“We will also continue to be a strong voice internationally for fisheries mitigation measures to protect seabirds. New Zealand is one of three countries proposing to list the Antipodean Albatross on the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) - an international treaty conserving migratory species and their habitats. We are also advocating for stronger seabird mitigation measures in international fisheries management organisations,” says Eugenie Sage.  

The National Plan of Action for Seabirds will be out for consultation and public submissions until 27 January 2020.

The draft plan and guidance for making submissions is here:

https://www.mpi.govt.nz/news-and-resources/consultations/national-plan-o...

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