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Squid Fishing Increase Would Kill 500 More Birds

6 April, 2004 - Wellington
MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

Squid Fishing Increase Would Kill 500 More Albatross And Petrels

Forest and Bird is urging the Minister of Fisheries to reject a fishing industry proposal to increase the mainland squid trawl catch that would result in the deaths of more seabirds, seals and threatened sharks.

"The fishing industry is proposing to increase the mainland squid trawl fishing by 30 percent this year. Most of this extra catch would be caught south and east of the Snares and Stewart Island," Forest and Birds Researcher Barry Weeber said.

Mr Weeber said Forest and Bird are opposed to any increase in squid quota and have called on the new Minister of Fisheries, David Benson-Pope to reject the proposal. "In their discussion document the Ministry of Fisheries failed to consider the impact of the proposed increase on seabirds or fur seals."

"This proposal could result in an extra 400 to 750 albatross and petrel deaths this year."

Mr Weeber said over 50 percent of these deaths would be white-capped albatross. "Other albatross regularly killed by this fishery include southern royal albatross, Salvin's albatross and Buller's albatross."

"The squid fishery has the highest kill rate for seabirds in trawl fisheries in New Zealand with around 10 in every 100 trawls killing seabirds."

"This fishery already kills about 70 fur seals annually and another 20 or more deaths were likely if this increase is approved."

Mr Weeber said more than 90 percent of the catch is taken by foreign chartered boats from a range of countries including Korea, Russia, and Ukraine.

"The increase catch will also increase the catch of the threatened basking sharks. These sharks are internationally recognized as a threatened species and are listed in Appendix II of the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species. New Zealand has yet to develop and National Plan of Action on Sharks to protect these and other threatened shark species."

Mr Weeber said as about a third of the trawls are dragged along the bottom, this proposal would further increase the impact on bottom dwelling species which are dislodged, crushed and killed by trawling.

Mr Weeber said the increase could also exacerbate the impact on the squid fishery on Auckland Island's sea lions because sea lions have also been drowned in the mainland squid fishery."

Ends

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Squid Fishery

The mainland squid trawl fishery (SQU1T) covers most of the EEZ and the Ministry cannot restrict catch within any part of the QMA once the TACC has been increased. Over 80 percent of the catch occurs on the Stewart-Snares Shelf, East and South of Snares Island and Stewart Island.

The squid fishery is highly variable. Squid only live for about a year before spawning and thus the number of squid present every year is mainly dependent on environmental conditions. In the last 10 years the reported squid trawl catch in the fishery around the mainland has varied between 13,049 tonnes (2000) and 36,653 tonnes (1992). The current catch limit for the mainland fishery is 44,741 tonnes. The mainland trawl squid fishery represents 35 percent of the New Zealand squid fishery, which has a total catch limit of 127,332 tonnes. On average 50 percent of the squid catch comes from this fishery and about 25 percent from the Auckland Islands, the rest are caught by squid jiggers around the mainland.

Squid is caught mainly by chartered Korean (16-50%), Russian (7-60%), Ukrainian (5-20%), Japanese and other foreign trawlers fishing for New Zealand companies. The catch by New Zealand owned and operated vessels is less than 10 percent of the total catch.

The mainland fishery usually runs from the beginning of February to the end of April or into May. In the last 20 years the catch has not exceeded the TACC.

There has been no assessment of the squid fishery state and the sustainable catch limit for squid in any of the New Zealand squid fisheries is not known. Research into the squid fishery ceased in 1993 and the current catch limits are arbitrary. There has been no assessment of squid stocks and what level of escapement would occur if this increase is allowed. The squid fishery is managed under the Quota Management System.

Seabird deaths:

The squid fishery has been a major source of deaths of seabirds for at least the last four years. In the 01/02 fishing year 11 percent of observed tows caught seabirds while in 00/01 the rate was 9 percent. Reporting from un-observed boats is not considered to be an accurate reflection of the total captures.

Even observed seabird deaths are likely to be a gross under-estimate of the actual problem. Several surveys have compared how many seabirds are actually injured or killed on observed boats versus how many end up being hauled aboard and reported, reveal that the bycatch figures are an under-estimate. DoC have reported (March 2003) that, based on observer observations, the reported captures from trawlers may be under-estimated by up to five times. This would increase the estimate for birds caught in this fishery to 2000 birds in 00/01 and 2500 in 01/02 fishing year. A 20 to 30 percent increase in tows could increase seabirds deaths by between 400 and 750.

The seabirds caught by this fishery include white-capped albatross (near-threatened), white-chinned petrel (vulnerable), Buller's albatross (vulnerable), Salvin's albatross (vulnerable), southern royal albatross (vulnerable) and sooty shearwater (near-threatened). All these birds are protected species under the Wildlife Act and their IUCN threat classification is listed. White-capped albatross makes up over 50 percent of birds returned for autopsy. All the albatross caught are listed in the Annexes of the Convention on Migratory Species and the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatross and Petrels (ACAP) - New Zealand has ratified both agreements.

Fur seals

There will be an increase in the bycatch of fur seals. The squid fishery is a significant source of fur seal deaths. In 2002 the catch rate for fur seals was over 2% (2.3 per hundred tows) with an estimated capture of 73 from 3160 tows. An extra 1000 tows would result in an extra 23 fur seal deaths.

Research into the genetic diversity of fur seals has indicated the presence of two genetically distinct populations. The research carried out by Geoff Chambers at Victoria University and Scott Baker and Gina Lento at Auckland University found two genetically distinct populations (Lento et al 1997), with the rarer of the two based around the Snares Island but also found on the East and West Coasts of the South Island. New Zealand has obligations under the Biodiversity Convention to maintain genetic diversity. The deaths of fur seals in the squid fishery is a threat to this genetic diversity.

Sea lions:

Exacerbate the catch of sea lions. Sea lions have been caught in the SQU1T fishery.

Threatened species:

Increase the catch of basking shark, a recognised threatened species (Cavanagh et al 2003) and listed in Annex II of CITES. Between 1998 and 2001 about 45 tonnes of basking sharks were caught annually in the squid fishery. A proportion of these are caught on the Snares-Stewart Shelf. New Zealand has yet to develop a Shark National Plan of Action as it has committed to as part of the FAO International Plan of Action on Sharks.

Bottom trawling:

About 30 percent of the fishery is carried out by bottom trawling. It is now well established in the international literature (eg Conservation Biology December 1998 (Vol 12, No 6) Journal of the Society for Conservation Biology, Blackwell science) that trawling, dredging and other methods that involve dragging or bouncing fishing gear along the seafloor or its parts dislodge, crush, kill and in other ways damage marine invertebrates and colonies, especially those that are rigid and/or sessile. Following the international literature and the normal meanings of words, it is our contention that these effects are adverse to the organisms and to the colonies, assemblages and ecosystems of which they are part. There is also information dredging and trawling can alter the sediment composition and profile so destroying the habitat of species, colonies and assemblages that were there prior to fishing. An increase in the SQU1T fishery will exacerbate the effect of trawling in Snares-Stew art Shelf.

ENDS

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