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Albatross protection plan leaves much in the air

8 April, 2004 - Wellington

Albatross protection plan leaves to much in the air

Forest and Bird welcomes the release of the National Plan of Action for Seabirds (NPOA) which will apply to all seabirds affected by commercial and non-commercial fishing methods, as a step forward for seabird conservation.

"However, the NPOA's emphasis on voluntary methods to avoid seabird deaths is likely to mean that many thousands of albatross and petrels will still be needlessly killed in our fisheries each year." Forest and Bird Senior Researcher, Barry Weeber said today.

"Around 10,000 albatross and petrel are killed annually in New Zealand waters by trawlers and longliners." Mr Weeber said the exact numbers could be higher but only some of the fisheries killing seabirds have had reasonable observer coverage.

"No one would seriously suggest a voluntary approach to speed limits on the roads to reduce the road toll, so why are we looking at a voluntary approach to avoid the killing of threatened seabird species?"

"Japanese Tuna Boats fishing operating under strict regulations in New Zealand waters have reduced seabird by-kill from 4,000 birds per year to under 20 individual birds, yet a New Zealand fishing boat caught 300 seabirds in a single month."

"The difference is that the Japanese tuna boats have 100% observer coverage and strict requirements but New Zealand boats do not. These lessons have been ignored by officials preparing the plan of action," Mr Weeber said.

"Internationally New Zealand has pushed for regulations in a range of fisheries including Antarctic fisheries. There appears to be a double standard being proposed with voluntary methods within New Zealand and strict regulations on the high seas.

"This is hypocritical and we would hope that the NPOA will be upgraded in the near future."

"Forest and Bird will be monitoring the implementation of the NPOA and it is essential that there is an early review," he said.

"As the world's albatross capital New Zealand has a responsibility to show international leadership. New Zealand must be able to hold its head up high and challenge other countries to radically reduce seabird by-kill. By not producing a stronger NPOA New Zealand cannot do this because our own house is not yet in order ."

Seabird conservation is a major issue for New Zealand. New Zealand has more endemic albatross and petrel species than any other country. Some albatross and petrel species have declined by 90% in 60 years, mostly due to long line fishing. BirdLife International's latest threat assessment for birds is that nearly all albatross species are now threatened with extinction due to the level of fishing carnage."

"We strongly support the NPOA applying to all seabirds affected by commercial and non-commercial fishing methods.


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