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Seabirds suffering from Government inaction

5 May 2005

Seabirds suffering from Government inaction

With 10,000 deaths a year New Zealand's seabirds are suffering at the hands of an uncaring fishing industry and a Government sitting on its hands waiting for someone else to do the work for them, Greens Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

"While it's heartening to see that the Fisheries Minister has finally called for a report into the problem, it is not good enough that it only happened after Forest and Bird raised concerns that the fishing industry has failed to meet deadlines of the National Plan of Action to reduce seabird bycatch."

"The Government should not be waiting for NGOs to do their work for them," Ms Fitzsimons says.

"It should have called the industry to account months ago, when the codes of practice were due and had not been developed."

'We are very encourage that the minister says he agrees with the Green Party that there is a problem. If he really wants to address the situation there are three simples steps that he could take right now."

Firstly, he could require fishing boats to use the full package of best practice fishing methods, which have been so successful in the joint venture tuna fishery. This package includes the use of tori line, sinking bait, fishing at night and not tipping offal over the side of the boat when fishing.

"Voluntary codes are not enough."

Secondly, he could require independent observers or other independent monitoring on all boat so that compliance can be measured.

Thirdly, he could set a limit on the number of seabird deaths in each fishery. When these were exceeded they would trigger the closure of the fishery for the rest of the season.

This has been used for a number of years in the Auckland Islands squid fishery to protect the endangered Hooker's Sea Lions and would help to save the endangered albatrosses and petrels that are being slaughtered by the fishing industry. "I am pleased the minister has said he is 'obligated to ongoing discussions with the Green Party' on this problem and we will certainly be taking up his invitation.

ENDS

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