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Procrastination will not save the albatross

16 December 2005

Procrastination will not save the endangered albatross

The numbers of Northern Royal Albatross will keep falling as long as the Government and fishing industry continue to procrastinate over measures to stop seabird bycatch, the Green Party says.

Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says she was sad to hear today that the Conservation Department had reported a significant drop in the number of nesting pairs of Northern Royal Albatrosses at the Taiaroa Head colony near Dunedin.

The birds breed every two years and Department of Conservation rangers had expected 25 pairs during this year's breeding season, but five pairs have failed to turn up and a further three have not laid.

"The Northern Royal Albatross is one of the world's biggest birds, but sadly its future looks grim. There are only about 13,000 of these magnificent but endangered birds left in the world.

"The finger of blame for the fragile state of the species has to be pointed at the fishing industry and the Government. Thousands of birds are killed every year due to lax fishing methods.

"Just before the election the Government announced it was introducing a strategy to manage the environmental effects of fishing.

However, the cogs of Government and of the fishing industry are moving at their usual slow pace. The only changes made so far is the requirement for the domestic tuna fishery to use the much safer tori lines - which discourage birds from trying to eat bait on fishing lines.

Other fisheries and methods - 100 percent coverage by independent observers, night setting of lines, better offal management and avoiding high bycatch areas - have largely been ignored.

Unless the Government and the domestic fishing industry gets on with it and does what they have promised to do, we will continue to see the numbers of these beautiful birds continue to decline.

ENDS

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