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Petrel Deaths Alarming

Conservation Minister Sandra Lee today said she was alarmed at the death of 304 seabirds killed by a commercial longline vessel on a recent fishing trip for ling.

Ms Lee said Department of Conservation staff had advised her that the catch was primarily white-chinned petrels, a protected species which is also classified “vulnerable” by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The fishing vessel returned to a New Zealand port last weekend.

“In light of the positive contributions the Government has been making to international efforts to protect seabirds, a kill of this level is very grim and disappointing news.

“New Zealand is a leader in terms of protecting seabirds. Recent initiatives include our hosting of an international forum of fishers last year to discuss the issue of seabird bycatch. Earlier this year we were the second country to sign an agreement that would lead to greater co-operation and efforts amongst Southern Hemisphere countries to reduce fishing vessel bycatch of seabirds.”

Ms Lee said she would talk to the Minister of Fisheries on the need to strengthen the existing measures to avoid seabird kills.

Although white-chin petrels have a large world population, studies at their breeding grounds at South Georgia in the Atlantic Ocean show they have declined 28% in the past 20 years. At Marion Island in the Indian Ocean the population has decreased 34% in four years.

“These declines have been attributed to longline fishing," said Ms Lee. "This illustrates that even numerically abundant seabird species are at risk from fishing.”

Ends

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