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NZ fishers fail to meet Japanese standards

16 September 2003 – Wellington


NZ fishers fail to meet Japanese standards

Measures which have lead to a 99% reduction in albatross deaths by Japanese tuna boats fishing in New Zealand waters should also apply to New Zealand boats says Forest and Bird.

“Japanese tuna boats fishing in New Zealand waters are required to take measures that reduce the by-catch of albatross and to have 100 % observer coverage. They once killed over 4000 albatross a year. Now they only catch less than 20 a year. This lesson has been ignored by the Ministry of Fisheries,” Forest and Bird’s senior researcher Barry Weeber said.

Mr Weeber said that New Zealand boats did not have to comply with the same standards as the Japanese boats and so killed a lot more seabirds.

“One New Zealand longline boat recently caught 300 seabirds in a single month,” he said. “While some New Zealand boats apply high standards, many do not. New Zealand fishers are helping to drive albatross and petrels to extinction and that’s not acceptable,” he said.

Forest and Bird has renewed its call for compulsory measures to prevent albatross deaths through fishing after a new international report upgraded the threatened status of six albatross species.

The report by BirdLife International for the World Conservation Union, IUCN, blamed long line fishing for the decline in albatross species. Albatross are killed when they eat the fish bait, get caught on the hook and are drowned.

Barry Weeber said that voluntary measures proposed by the government were not enough to stem the decline of albatross and called for compulsory measures including mandatory observer coverage

“New Zealand boats fishing for toothfish in the Ross Sea have to meet strict standards. Why are they allowed off the hook once they are back fishing in New Zealand waters?” he asked.

“Government needs to end the double standard where it supports stricter regulation in international negotiations but does not apply those same measures to New Zealand boats fishing in New Zealand waters.”

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


1. Submissions on the Ministry of Fisheries’ draft National Plan of Action on Seabird deaths close at the end of the month.

2. All 21 albatross species face varying risk of extinction from critically endangered to vulnerable. Six species have had their status upgraded after an alarming drop in their populations. Most species visit or breed in New Zealand waters. These species include black browed albatross (endangered), Chathams albatross (critically endangered), and northern royal albatross (endangered).

3. New Zealand is the albatross capital of the world with more species nesting on New Zealand’s islands than anywhere else in the world. New Zealand is also the only place in the world where it is possible to visit a mainland albatross colony (Dunedin’s Tairoa Head).

4. Measures required of Japanese fishing vessels include: compulsory scientific observers, night setting of lines, running tori lines behind the boats to discourage seabirds from targeting baits, and penalties for catching seabirds.

5. Photographs of albatross species and of the harm longline fishing can cause are available from Forest and Bird or on the website http://www.birdlife.org.uk/news/pr/index.html. Higher resolution images are available upon request.

6. BirdLife is the Listing Authority for birds for the IUCN Red List which includes all species judged to be threatened with extinction. IUCN Red List categories are: Critically Endangered (facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild), Endangered (facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild), Vulnerable (facing a high risk of extinction in the wild), Near Threatened (close to qualifying for Vulnerable) and Least Concern (species not qualifying for the other categories, including widespread and abundant species). For listing species as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable there is a range of quantitative IUCN Red List criteria relating to population and range size, and rates of decrease in these. For albatross species, the IUCN Red List criteria relating to population reduction is particularly relevant: >80% over 10 years or three generations = Critically Endangered: >50% over 10 years or three generations = Endangered; >30% over 10 years or three generations = Vulnerable. BirdLife’s new evaluation of albatross species will be included in the 2003 IUCN Red List which will be released at the end of the year. See http://iucn.org/themes/ssc/red-lists.htm.

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