The Green Party is calling for stricter controls on the fishing industry after it was revealed thousands of seabirds, hundreds of fur seals, and dozens of dolphins were killed by trawl nets in just one year.
A new report has just been released that analyses data from fisheries observers to identify levels of bycatch.
In 2013-14, an estimated 81 dolphins were killed in the jack mackerel trawl fishery and an estimated 2,277 seabirds, including threatened species such as Salvin’s mollyhawk and white chinned petrel, and an estimated 387 fur seals were killed in other trawl fisheries*.
“The deaths of so many native animals as the result of the fishing industry is completely unacceptable,” said Green Party primary industry spokesperson Eugenie Sage.
“We don’t allow hunters to accidently kill kakapo or great spotted kiwi. We shouldn’t allow the fishing industry to kill any of our dolphins, fur seals, or our endangered seabirds.
“Of the more than 500 birds found dead in trawl nets, 19 were flesh-footed shearwaters – one of 142 species that have had their threat status slide closer to extinction under the National Government.
“New Zealand is the seabird capital of the world with over 8o species based in our waters – we have an international responsibility to protect these species.
“There were some 158 fur seals seen by observers in trawl nets, with the hoki and southern blue whiting fisheries responsible for most of the estimated 387 fur seals killed in trawl nets.
“All but one of the actual dolphin deaths occurred in the jack mackerel fishery which is dominated by huge foreign charter vessels. Dolphins shouldn’t be being killed to catch jack mackerel which are often used for bait, fishmeal, and in petfood.
“The Government needs to clean up the commercial fishing industry by making sure there are observers on every boat, ensuring regular audits are done, taking stronger enforcement action, and prosecuting vessels where repeated bykill occurs,” said Ms Sage.
*Observer coverage of fishing vessels is often less than 15 percent so the analysis estimates bykill for the whole fishery.