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New Zealand no leader in protecting seabirds

19 December 2001

New Zealand no leader in protecting seabirds - Fitzsimons

Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons today said she shared the alarm of Conservation Minister Sandra Lee at news that 300 seabirds had recently been killed in one commercial fishing expedition in New Zealand waters.

Three hundred and four seabirds - mostly the protected white-chinned petrel - were killed when a New Zealand vessel went on a commercial long-line fishing expedition for ling.

Ms Fitzsimons said the devastating impact of poor fishing techniques on seabirds was an issue recently highlighted by the environmental work of the Late Sir Peter Blake:

"I've spent such a lot of time on the ocean and I guess I've told the story many times, but to be sailing around the world in our first round-the-world races when our boats used to be surrounded in the Southern Ocean by many, many large albatross, I mean... it was extraordinary. Dozens of them, and they'd be there for day after day. Now, in the same parts of the world you're lucky to see one of these - say, a wandering albatross - one a week, they're nearly all gone... mainly through poor fishing techniques... and you say, 'Well, I don't think the attitude is correct that my children and their children are only going to be able to see what a wandering albatross looks like in a book.'" (Sir Peter Blake, July 2001)

Ms Fitzsimons said the numbers of some seabirds had plummeted in the last 60 years. In the last five years 90,000 albatrosses, 15,000 giant petrels and nearly 275,000 white-chinned petrels have been killed by long line fishing in the Southern Ocean, and some species of albatross could be extinct in the next 10 years.

Nearly two thirds of all the world's seabirds breed in our region, mostly on New Zealand's offshore islands.

"There are many techniques available to reduce sea bird deaths, though none on their own are perfect. However if the available methods were being used with due care - such as a range of deterrents, fishing in darkness and ensuring the baits sink - there would not be 300 seabird deaths on one fishing trip," she said.

"There also needs to be more observers on fishing boats so we know whether these deterrents are being used."


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