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Albatross left for dead

14 August 2003 - Wellington


Albatross left for dead

The draft national plan of action on seabird deaths in fisheries released today is woefully inadequate and shows an astonishing double standard by government officials the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society said.

"Officials have apparently taken the easy option and allowed more years of inaction. After many years of hand wringing while seabird deaths rose the officials have served up to Ministers a misconceived voluntary approach to seabird deaths in fisheries," Mr Weeber said.

Well over 10,000 albatrosses and petrels are killed annually in New Zealand waters. "The level of albatross and petrel deaths in New Zealand waters is completely unacceptable" said Mr Weeber. "Trawlers, longlines and set nets all kill seabirds."

Mr Weeber said the voluntary approach to seabird deaths has failed over the last 10 years and internationally New Zealand officials had pushed for regulations in a range of international fora including Antarctic fisheries. "This double standard being proposed by officials with voluntary methods within New Zealand and strict regulations on the high seas is hypocritical and should be rejected."

"No one would seriously suggest a voluntary approach to speed limits on the roads so why are we looking at a voluntary approach to the conservation of threatened species," he said.

In Antarctic waters New Zealand vessels fishing for toothfish in the Ross Sea are required to apply a range of mitigation measures and carry fisheries observes. "These measures are not required of the same vessels fishing for ling in New Zealand waters which have killed thousands of birds."

"Japanese Tuna Boats fishing operating in New Zealand waters have reduced seabird by-catch in New Zealand waters from 4,000 birds per year to under 20 individual birds, yet a New Zealand fishing boat caught 300 seabirds in a single month," Forest and Bird's Senior Researcher Barry Weeber said.

"The difference is that Japanese boats have 100% observer coverage and strict requirements but New Zealand boats do not. These lessons have been ignored by officials preparing the draft plan of action," he said.

Seabird conservation is a major issue for New Zealand. New Zealand has more endemic albatross and petrel species than any other country. Some albatross and petrel species have declined by 90% in 60 years, mostly due to long line fishing.

Forest and Bird will be making submissions calling on the Government to develop an effective plan of action for New Zealand waters which adopts international best practice measures as a minimum standard. "The National Plan of Action must be effective at reducing albatross and seabird by-catch", said Mr Weeber.

"As the world's albatross capital New Zealand has a responsibility to show international leadership. New Zealand must be able to hold its head up high and challenge other countries. At the moment New Zealand cannot do this because its own house is not yet in order."




Minimum Requirements for New Zealand National Plan of Action: Reducing Albatross and Petrel Interaction with New Zealand Trawl and Longline Fisheries:

The combined effects of the tuna fleet, ling longliner, trawlers and other line fishers could be capturing well over 10,000 seabirds annually in the New Zealand zone. The observer coverage is very poor in the domestic tuna fishery, poor in parts of the ling and trawl fisheries and almost non-existent in the bluenose and snapper fisheries. Only with adequate observer coverage will the scale of the current level of seabird captures be able to be accurately measured. The Government has previously proposed to triple observer coverage in a range of trawl and longline fisheries.

Based on past experience, a target of at least 20-30 percent observer coverage of all line fisheries which is spread across areas, seasons and vessels to provide statistically robust estimates for observers. In contrast CCAMLR has adopted a standard of two observers on all vessels in toothfish longline fisheries.

The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has established best practice Conservation Measures. New Zealand should require all longline vessels to adopt the same measures agreed to by Antarctic fisheries regime (CCALMR). These measures are international best practice and should set the baseline for any measures adopted in New Zealand. Currently the only measure in place to reduce seabird deaths is a requirement for tuna boats to use tori or bird scaring lines. There are no requirements for other longline vessels fishing for other species, or for trawlers or set netters.

The measures adopted by CCAMLR include:

- Area and seasonal closures to times when birds are particularly active in the area - this has involved stopping fishing from October to March in many areas;

- Tori or bird lines and night setting;

- Weighted hooks;

- 100 percent observer coverage;

- stopping the dumping of offal while longlines are set.

These measures are required of New Zealand vessels fishing for toothfish in the Ross Sea but are not required of the same vessels fishing for ling in New Zealand waters.

These measures for New Zealand should include:

- Area or seasonal closures to stop fishing when birds are most active in an area.

- Focusing on the obligations in the Fisheries Act 1996 to "avoid, remedy or mitigate the adverse effect of fishing on the aquatic environment" and best practice fishing techniques which can reduce the impact of fishing on all seabirds.

- Requiring longline vessels to meet the best practice measures set out in CCAMLR Conservation Measure 29/XIX, including night setting and the requirements (to do what) in the Ross Sea fishery in Conservation Measure 210/XIX. Tori lines are currently only required for tuna vessels and not ling, bluenose or snapper longline vessels. The CCAMLR measures are requirements of New Zealand vessels fishing in the Southern Ocean.

- Requiring trawlers to meet the best practice requirements set out in CCAMLR Conservation Measure 173XVIII (apart from the prohibition on net monitor cables).

- Prohibiting trawlers using centre cables that have the same effect as a net monitor cables, to kill albatross and petrels.

- Requiring bottom longline vessels (e.g. ling) to meet the sink rate requirements established in CCAMLR conservation measures (e.g. CM210/XIX Appendix A). Vessels should be required to meet these rates before they can be used.

- Requiring a significant level of observer coverage in all fisheries that catch seabirds. CCAMLR requires 100 percent coverage in the toothfish fishery.

Measures are being looked at to reduce deaths from trawlers. These include:

- Not discharging offal while fishing;

- Avoiding areas of high seabird abundance;

- Using avoidance measures like the Brady Baffler.

For set nets measures include:

- Not setting nets close to penguin and shag colonies;

- Not setting net in areas of high seabird abundance;

- Establishing wildlife sanctuaries (or marine mammal sanctuaries) which prohibit the use of set nets.

The International Campaign to Save the Albatross

The overall Save the Albatross campaign target is to virtually eliminate seabird bycatch. Forest and Bird's goals for the albatross campaign are the virtual elimination of seabird by-catch. This goal is achievable.

To achieve these goals the following methods need to be implemented:

- All longline fishing boats in New Zealand waters must adopt international 'best practice' measures to reduce seabird bycatch including avoiding certain areas at certain times of the year, night setting, weighted hooks and the use of tori lines and preventing discharge of offal.

- Limits on seabird numbers caught which are reduced towards zero over several years. When these limits are exceeded the fishery is closed.

- Creation of closed areas or marine reserves over parts of the ocean where seabirds congregate and areas where bycatch has been high in the past.

- All threatened albatross and petrel species need to be listed as threatened species under the New Zealand Wildlife Act.

- Observer coverage in all longline fisheries to ensure that mitigation measures are used and that the number and species caught is identified.

Which species are affected?

The majority of albatross species and several petrels and other seabird species are affected by longlining and are in grave danger of extinction. The majority of these species are found in the Southern Ocean. Some key nations and territories are especially important for breeding albatross species and are listed below.

New Zealand: Twelve breeding albatross species, more than any other country: Chatham, Antipodean, Northern Royal, Southern Royal, Campbell, Buller's, Wandering, Grey-headed, Salvin's, Black-browed, Shy and Light-mantled

New Zealand Albatross and Petrel species threatened by longlining and trawling


World Population



Chatham Albatross 10,000-11,000


Antipodean Albatross 40,000

Northern Royal Albatross 13,000


Wandering Albatross 28,000

Southern Royal Albatross 28,000

Salvin's Albatross 62,700

Buller's Albatross 58,000

Grey-headed Albatross 250,000

Campbell Albatross 38,000-52,000

Sooty Albatross 42,000

Black browed albatross 6,000,000

Other New Zealand seabird species threatened by longlining


World Population



Hutton's Shearwater 188,000


Southern Giant-petrel 62,000

White-chinned Petrel 5,000,000

Black Petrel 5,000

Westland Petrel 20,000

Buller's Shearwater 2,500,000

Contact: Barry Weeber, Senior Researcher, 04-385-7374 or 025-622-7369

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