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Forest & Bird welcomes fishing change to protect albatrosses

Forest & Bird welcomes fishing change to protect albatrosses

An agreement made at a conference in the Philippines is great news for the several albatross species that raise their young in New Zealand, says Forest & Bird.

The resolution was passed at a meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) – which manages the fishing industry over a large swathe of the Pacific Ocean. Once implemented the agreement will mean longliners operating south of 30 degrees south, in areas where albatrosses are known to feed, will have to adopt two of three techniques to avoid albatrosses swallowing their hooks.

Longliners typically set thousands of hooks a day on lines that can be more than 100 kilometres long. Seabirds, especially albatrosses, often become caught as they try to take bait from the hooks, and are drowned as the line sinks.

Vessels will have to choose between using bird streamers, also known as tori lines, which scare birds off; adding weights to make hooks sink more quickly; or setting hooks at night, when most birds are less active.

Scientists estimate that more than 300,000 seabirds are killed every year by longliners*; it’s believed this is the main reason that 17 of the world’s 22 species of albatrosses could soon become extinct.

“If implemented, this decision could reduce the number of albatrosses killed by 80 per cent,” says Forest & Bird Seabird Advocate Karen Baird, who is in Manila. “So this decision could make the difference between several species of albatross surviving, or disappearing forever,” she says.

Travelling at up to 80 kilometres per hour, on wings up to three metres wide, members of half of the world’s albatross species nest and raise their young in New Zealand.

They spend the rest of their lives at sea, which makes them vulnerable to fishing activities. Six of the species that nest in New Zealand are now on the decline. If adopted, the WCPFC’s new rules will apply in New Zealand waters – and the waters of all member countries – from July 2014. “I’m confident the industry here will accept that this is a part of doing business in the 21st century. Already, Indian and Atlantic Ocean management authorities have set similar rules, and the other Pacific zones are set to follow suit,” says Karen Baird.

“I want to congratulate the New Zealand delegation, which did a good job of leading on this proposal, and working towards an agreement at the plenary level. Ministry for Primary Industries staffers Matt Hooper and Steve Brouwer in particular put a huge amount of work into this,” Karen Baird says.

Forest & Bird provided support and advice along the way, and helped shore up support for the proposal among delegates from other countries.


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