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Save New Zealand’s Albatross And Petrels

World Earth Day: Let’s Save New Zealand’s Albatross And Petrels From Extinction

Forest and Bird announced on World Earth Day (22 April) that it was joining Birdlife International’s Campaign to save the world’s albatross and petrel species.

Albatross and petrel conservation is a huge issue for New Zealand says Eric Pyle, Forest and Bird’s Conservation Manager. “We have more endemic albatross and petrel species than any other country.”

“Many New Zealand albatross and petrel species are doomed to extinction unless there are major changes to fisheries practices in New Zealand and around the world”

“We are pleased to join this international campaign. An international approach is needed because these birds fly to different parts of the world and many fisheries pose a threat to them”.

Well over 10,000 albatross and petrels are killed annually in New Zealand waters, around 10% of the estimated catch of seabirds worldwide. “The level of albatross and petrel death in New Zealand waters is completely unacceptable”, says Barry Weeber, Forest and Bird’s Senior Researcher and Marine Expert.

“This Government has done very little about a hugely important conservation issue for New Zealand. The Government’s inaction on this issue is likely to cause it a great deal of embarrassment when it lobbies for better albatross protection at international forums.”

Forest and Bird is calling on the Government to develop an effective plan of action for New Zealand waters which adopts international best practice measures as a minimum standard.

“When we have effective controls in fisheries to reduce seabird by-catch in New Zealand waters the Government can then hold its head high in international forums and seek protection of these species.”

Mr Weeber said Forest and Bird welcomed the Government’s proposals to nearly triple observer coverage in fisheries that capture seabirds as a way of better assessing the size of the problem and determining the effectiveness of mitigation measures.

BirdLife International's Campaign

BirdLife's Save the Albatross Campaign was formally launched at the British Birdwatching Fair in 2000. However, prior to that, BirdLife had been active in the conservation of the world's seabirds. (see

Campaign targets

The overall Save the Albatross campaign target is to reduce the number of seabird death caused by the longlining fishing industry to a sustainable level.

To achieve this, over the next two years, BirdLife will focus on:

- Raising public awareness of the problem. If people are aware of the issue, they can help exert pressure directly on the fishing industry, for example by only buying fish that has been fully accredited as "Albatross-friendly" and landed by a legal fishing vessel.

- Urge governments of relevant longlining nations to develop and implement National Plans of Action within the UN FAO framework.

- Urge governments of relevant longlining nations to sign and ratify ACAP and implement its conservation actions.

- Work closely with Regional Fishery Management Organisations (RFMOs) to ensure that seabird mitigation measures are routinely adopted during fishing operations.

- Urge international and national authorities to tackle the illegal "Pirate" fishing industry.

- Monitor and evaluate the by-catch problem, assessing the latest available scientific evidence on seabird populations.

- Collaborate with relevant bodies to promote and develop effective solutions and mitigation measures.

- Resource and equip national BirdLife Partners to campaign on this issue world-wide, and ensure a co-ordinated and cohesive campaign is delivered at global, regional and national levels.

Key BirdLife achievements to date

1998: Technical Review by BirdLife for UN-FAO of longline fisheries worldwide, as part of the basis for the FAO's International Plan of Action (IPOA-Seabirds).

1999-2001: BirdLife helped to shape the international Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) under the Bonn Convention. ACAP was opened for signature in June 2001.

2000-2001: BirdLife influenced an FAO International Plan of Action on Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported or 'pirate' fishing (adopted by FAO in 2001).

2000-2001: Developing a Global Environment Facility (World Bank) application to promote seabird-friendly longline fishing in developing southern hemisphere countries.

2001: Hosted workshop in Uruguay to promote solutions to the seabird by-catch problem in South America.

Ongoing: BirdLife Partners around the world are advising and assisted governments in drafting seabird regulations and training curricula for fishers and scientific observers.

Which species are affected?

The majority of albatross species and several petrel and other seabird species are affected by longlining and are in grave danger of extinction. The majority of these species are found in the Southern Ocean. Some key nations and territories are especially important for breeding albatross species and are listed below.

New Zealand: Twelve breeding albatross species, more than any other country: Chatham, Antipodean, Northern Royal, Southern Royal, Campbell, Buller's, Wandering, Grey-headed, Salvin's, Black-browed, Shy and Light-mantled

New Zealand Albatross species threatened by longlining


World Population



Chatham Albatross 10,000-11,000


Antipodean Albatross 40,000

Northern Royal Albatross 13,000


Wandering Albatross 28,000

Southern Royal Albatross 28,000

Salvin's Albatross 62,700

Buller's Albatross 58,000

Grey-headed Albatross 250,000

Campbell Albatross 38,000-52,000

Sooty Albatross 42,000

Black browed albatross 6,000,000

Other New Zealand seabird species threatened by longlining


World Population



Hutton's Shearwater 188,000


Southern Giant-petrel 62,000

White-chinned Petrel 5,000,000

Black Petrel 5,000

Westland Petrel 20,000

Buller's Shearwater 2,500,000


New Zealand should require all ling and other longline vessels to adopt the same measures agreed to by Antarctic fisheries regime (CCALMR). These measures are international best practice and should set the baseline for any measures adopted in New Zealand.

The measures adopted by CCAMLR include:

- Area and seasonal closures to times when birds are particularly active in the area - this has involved stopping fishing from October to March in many areas;

- Tori or bird lines and night setting;

- Weighted hooks;

- 100 percent observer coverage;

- stopping the dumping of offal while longlines are set.

See also

Australia has agreed to a “Threat Abatement Plan for the incidental catch (or by-catch) of seabirds during oceanic longline operations.” Environment Australia. 1997, 61p.

See CCAMLR (Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) Conservation Measure 29/XIX

Minimum Requirements for New Zealand National Plan of Action: Reducing Albatross and Petrel Interaction with New Zealand Trawl and Longline Fisheries:

The combined effects of the tuna fleet, ling longliner, trawlers and other line fishers could be capturing well over 10,000 seabirds annually in the New Zealand zone. In 2000 over 1100 seabirds were observed killed in a range of longline and trawl fisheries. The observer coverage was very poor in the domestic tuna fishery, poor in parts of the ling and trawl fisheries and non-existent in the bluenose and snapper fisheries. Only with adequate observer coverage will the scale of the current level of seabird captures be able to be accurately measured. The Government is proposing to triple observer coverage in a range of trawl and longline fisheries.

Based on past experience, a target of at least 20-30 percent observer coverage of all line fisheries which is spread across areas, seasons and vessels to provide statistically robust estimates for observers. In contrast CCAMLR has adopted a standard of two observers in toothfish longline fisheries.

The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has established best practice Conservation Measures. These should be adopted by New Zealand as a minimum requirement to all domestic line vessels.

These measures include:

- Area or seasonal closures to stop fishing when birds are most active in an area.

- Focusing on the obligations in the Fisheries Act 1996 to “avoid, remedy or mitigate the adverse effect of fishing on the aquatic environment” and best practice fishing techniques which can reduce the impact of fishing on all seabirds.

- Requiring longline vessels to meet the best practice measures set out in CCAMLR Conservation Measure 29/XIX, including night setting and the requirements (to do what) in the Ross Sea fishery in Conservation Measure 210/XIX. Tori lines are currently only required for tuna vessels and not ling, bluenose or snapper longline vessels. The CCAMLR measures are requirements of New Zealand vessels fishing in the Southern Ocean.

- Requiring trawlers to meet the best practice requirements set out in CCAMLR Conservation Measure 173XVIII (apart from the prohibition on net monitor cables).

- Prohibiting trawlers using centre cables that have the same effect as a net monitor cables, to kill albatross and petrels, but do not link the net monitor.

- Requiring bottom longline vessels (e.g. ling) to meet the sink rate requirements established in CCAMLR conservation measures (e.g. CM210/XIX Appendix A). Vessels should be required to meet these rates before they can be used.

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