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Seafood industry concerned by albatross deaths

Seafood industry concerned by albatross deaths in swordfish fishery

23rd November 2006

“We support the Minister’s investigation into allegations of albatross deaths in association with the swordfish fishery,” said Owen Symmans, chief executive of the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council. “The industry is always concerned about by-catch issues.”

“We believe at this time there are no New Zealand boats fishing for swordfish. Swordfish were introduced into the quota management system this year. As a consequence, some New Zealand quota owners have chartered Australian vessels to catch their quota for them,” said Mr Symmans.

“New Zealand flagged longline vessels apply seabird mitigation devices and operate under Codes of Best Practice to avoid catching seabirds. Seabird by-catch mitigation devices have been developed by fishermen in New Zealand who are passionately committed to reducing seabird mortality. The industry has been proactive in developing and implementing them for many years. And New Zealand fishermen are actively involved in encouraging other southern hemisphere countries to adopt these practices.

“New Zealand flagged boats must adhere to regulations by law. Tori lines on tuna vessels have been mandatory for a decade and are mandatory on trawl vessels over 28m,” said Mr Symmans. This has greatly reduced the number of albatrosses caught by longline vessels, he said.

“We believe it is the responsibility of New Zealand quota owners to ensure that the vessels they are chartering adhere to the same standards as New Zealand owned and operated vessels,” Mr Symmans said.

Background Information:

Techniques that are widely used amongst New Zealand fishers to mitigate their impact on seabirds include:

* Retaining offal on board so that birds are not attracted to the vessels

* Using tori lines (streamer lines) off the back of vessels to scare birds away from the baited lines. The main problems occur when the line is being set as birds follow the boats and dive for the bait fish as they are being dropped into the sea. The birds get caught on the hooks and drown. A tori line stops this with streamer type material that is trailed behind the boat with a series of drop down pieces. These discourage the birds from flying through them.

* Setting baited hooks at night, when they are harder to see The industry is also actively involved in Southern Seabird Solutions (www.southernseabirds.org) which was formed in 2002, and the charitable trust established in 2004. Its purpose is to work with fishers throughout the southern hemisphere to develop and promote fishing practices that are safer for seabirds. Its members include fishers, representatives of the fishing industry, conservation organisations, marine eco-tourism operators and government agencies.

ENDS

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