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Plan of action to reduce seabird deaths

Thursday 14 August 2003 Media Statement

Plan of action to reduce seabird deaths in NZ fisheries

A draft plan of action to reduce seabird deaths caused by fishing in New Zealand fisheries was released for consultation today by Fisheries Minister Pete Hodgson and Conservation Minister Chris Carter.

Fishing activity is a threat to a number of endangered seabird species, including many that breed only in New Zealand. Albatross and petrels, which often dive for freshly baited longline hooks, are particularly vulnerable. In the past seven years, 13 species of albatross and 16 of petrel have been recorded as caught in New Zealand fisheries.

"Half the world's monitored albatross populations are in decline and New Zealand, as a breeding ground for around 80 seabird species, has a unique opportunity to play a significant role in the preservation of these birds," Mr Carter said. "By confronting the problem of seabird deaths in our fisheries we can help ensure their survival."

Mr Hodgson said that the draft plan encouraged the fishing industry to voluntarily reduce seabird deaths.

"Within the fishing industry, many voluntary steps have already been taken to reduce seabird mortality," he said. "The draft plan allows for the industry to advance these voluntary measures in the first instance. However, if a voluntary approach fails, the plan allows for the government to introduce mandatory measures."

Preventative measures taken by the industry to date include underwater bait setting, streamers or tori lines to scare birds away from long lines, and baffles to deter birds from trawlers as nets are hauled in.

The plan proposes that codes of practice for managing seabird by-catch in key fisheries are developed by the industry, in cooperation with government agencies, environmental groups, iwi and other interested parties, by mid-2004. These codes will specify fishing practices, limits on seabird deaths, public awareness and compliance measures, and penalties for non-compliance.

The plan also discusses legal options in relation to vessels that fail to take reasonable precautions to limit seabird deaths.

The draft plan of action applies to both commercial and non-commercial fisheries. It is open for submissions until September 30.

Attached: Fact Sheet on Draft National Plan of Action to Reduce the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in New Zealand Fisheries

The full draft plan will be available on www.fish.govt.nz and www.doc.govt.nz later today.

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