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Urgent action on albatross slaughter supported

28 November 2006 - Wellington

Urgent action on albatross slaughter supported

Forest & Bird supports urgent measures proposed by Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton to close the Kermadec Islands fishery to long-lining fishing after a vessel killed 51 albatrosses in a single trip.

A Ministry of Fisheries report shows that the vessel Seawin Emerald, fishing for swordfish in the Kermadec fishery in New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), caught 58 seabirds as by-catch, including seven petrels and 51 albatrosses.

Photographs taken by an observer on the vessel show that "a number" of the albatross killed were threatened Antipodean albatrosses, but because the dead birds were not brought on board as required, the exact number was not known.

Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton has proposed closing the Kermadec fishery to all surface longline fisheries for the next three months, and restricting surface long-lining to the hours of darkness (when risk to seabirds is much less) over the whole New Zealand EEZ. He has given the fishery 48 hours to respond to the proposal - the deadline is tomorrow (Wednesday, November 29).

Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate Kirstie Knowles said the measures proposed by the minister were strongly supported by Forest & Bird.

"The number of seabirds, including Antipodean albatrosses, killed by this vessel is a major concern and at a level that can only be described as needless slaughter. We applaud the measures proposed by the minister and urge him to immediately implement them to protect this globally threatened species."

The minister should go further and close the Kermadec Fisheries Management Area to long-lining year-round as vulnerable seabirds would continue to be exposed to risk, Kirstie Knowles says.

The Antipodean albatross (Diomedea antipodensis) is endemic to New Zealand and is a globally threatened species listed as "vulnerable" on the IUCN (World Conservation Union) Red List of Species Threatened with Extinction.

A Fisheries Ministry report to the minister on the Seawin Emerald by-catch says that continuation of long-line fishing in the Kermadec fishery is likely to lead to further by-catch of "significant numbers of albatross with potentially significant consequences for their long-term viability" and that the number of albatrosses killed is "of considerable concern."

Under the Fisheries Act the minister is required to avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse effects of fishing on the aquatic environment.

ENDS

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