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Minister Launches Seabird Conservation Plan

5 January 2000

The Minister of Conservation, Hon Sandra Lee, has launched a new plan to help safeguard the future of seabirds in New Zealand.

Ms Lee said the plan establishes this country as the 'seabird capital of the world', but with a huge challenge to preserve these species in the future.

She said our most threatened seabird species included fairy terns (only about 30 birds survive), the Chathams Island taiko (with a surviving population of about 100), and a range of albatross, penguin and petrel species.

"New Zealand is well-known for its unique land birds, such as the kiwi and kakapo," Ms Lee said. "However, few people know that New Zealand is also the world centre for seabird diversity. At present, 84 seabird species, or about a quarter of the world total, breed in New Zealand. That is more than anywhere else in the world and includes 35 species that are endemic, or breed nowhere else in the world." She said by comparison, the British Isles was home to just 34 seabird species, none of which were endemic.

"This plan brings together, for the first time, an overview of what state our seabird fauna is in," said Ms Lee. "It outlines the current status of each species, their main threats, and what actions are needed to care for that species."

The Conservation Minister said there had already been at least five known seabird extinctions in New Zealand, and the remaining species were under great pressure. Threats to them ranged from introduced predators, loss of habitat, coastal development, pollution, oil spills, global sea temperature changes, and fisheries by-catch.

Ms Lee said the plan would provide a resource to a range of interest groups beyond the Department of Conservation. "Universities, the Ornithological Society of New Zealand, individuals and community groups are already involved in caring for seabird species. We hope this plan will help foster that community involvement, by providing a coordinating point for the diverse range of interest groups who wanted to provide direct assistance."

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