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WWF welcomes action to save seabirds

6 May 2005

WWF welcomes dramatic government action to save seabirds in squid fishery

WWF-New Zealand today welcomed the unprecedented move by the Minister of Fisheries to call New Zealand’s Southern Ocean squid fishing fleet back to port over poor performance on action to protect seabirds.

The Ministry of Fisheries today announced a full package of mandatory measures to prevent the unnecessary deaths of seabirds in New Zealand’s squid trawl fishery. Measures include the mandatory use of equipment to scare seabirds away from vessels and the mandatory control of offal discharge, which attracts seabirds to vessels. Fines of up to $100,000 will now apply to squid trawl vessels who fail to comply with this new set of rules.

“WWF is pleased that dramatic action has been taken by the Minister of Fisheries”, said Chris Howe, WWF-New Zealand Conservation Director. “The seabird bycatch problem in the squid trawl fishery is severe and the fishery has the highest observed number of albatross deaths of New Zealand’s fisheries.”

Since October 2004, the squid fishery has been operating under a voluntary Code of Practice which requires boats to use a minimum of one mitigation device at all times. According to data released by the Minister of Fisheries, non compliance with this rule is widespread and 46% of vessels were found not to use a back of boat mitigation device.

“WWF believes that voluntary codes of practice can work where there is strong commitment by the fishery to champion bycatch reduction in daily operation,” said Mr Howe. “In the case of the squid fishery, only 30% of vessels were found to adhere to bycatch reduction commitments, as set out in the code. Despite some good operators in the fishery, the overall performance of vessels is disappointing.”

“Under those conditions, WWF fully supports the Minister’s decision to regulate the Southern Ocean squid fishery for mandatory use of mitigation and mandatory control of discharge on all vessels. We look forward to a reduced number of seabird deaths in this fishery in the future,” said Mr Howe.

An average 537 seabirds were caught by the squid fishery each season between 2000 and 2002, not taking into account a high but undetermined number of warp strikes.

Since application of mitigation measures in the ling auto longline fishery deaths of seabirds have been reduced by 75% and in the joint venture tuna fishery deaths of seabirds have been reduced by 95%.

The government National Plan of Action for seabirds required all category 1 fisheries (squid and hoki trawling, ling auto line longlining and joint venture tuna fisheries) to develop and implement voluntary codes of practice by 1 October 2004 to measurably reduce seabird mortality in those fisheries.

ENDS

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