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First returning albatross welcomed

17 August 2004 - Wellington

First returning albatross welcomed

Forest and Bird today welcomed news of the first northern royal albatross (Diomedea sanfordi) of the new breeding season returning to the Taiaroa Head colony on the Otago peninsula. [1,2]

"Hopefully this will be a good breeding season for these majestic seabirds", said Forest and Bird Otago/Southland field officer, Sue Maturin. "Three adult birds failed to return to the colony during the last breeding season and were possibly killed on longlines".

"Throughout the Southern Ocean, albatrosses are being killed faster than they can replace themselves. The proportion of albatross species threatened with extinction increased from one third in 1994 to 19 of 21 species in 2003. They are now the most threatened family of birds in the world, even more threatened than the flightless ratites which include the four species of kiwi," said Forest and Bird senior researcher Barry Weeber [3].

"Longline fishing poses the most serious extinction threat to the world's albatross species. Northern royal albatrosses are listed as endangered on the IUCN (World Conservation Union) Red List compiled by BirdLife International," said Mr Weeber.

Longline fishing vessels targeting ling and tuna in New Zealand waters kill more seabirds than other domestic fisheries. Longline vessels set lines of up to 100 km long with some 50 million baited hooks set in the New Zealand fishery every year; albatrosses and other seabirds are lured onto the baited hooks, dragged underwater and drowned.

Earlier this month Forest and Bird made a submission to the Government's National Plan of Action to Reduce Seabird Bycatch (NPOA) calling for the use of seabird bycatch mitigation measures on longline fishing vessels to be mandatory rather than voluntary, and the setting of clear timetabled targets for reducing seabird bycatch as in the Falkland Islands NPOA.

"Forest and Bird also urges concerned members of the public to write to the new Fisheries Minister, Hon David Benson-Pope, who is also a Dunedin MP, to express their support for such measures to better protect these majestic seabirds", said Mr Weeber.


1. It reportedly arrived at approximately 1pm on 16 August 2004.
2. Forest and Bird is the BirdLife International Affiliate in New Zealand.
3. There are 21 species of albatross, 19 of which are globally threatened with extinction. Of the 21 species, 14 breed in New Zealand, which is more than any other country.

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