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Reducing Seabird Bycatch In Fisheries - Hodgson

Tuesday 18 November 2003

Hon. Pete Hodgson Speech Notes

Southern Seabird Solutions: reducing seabird bycatch in fisheries

[Address at launch of Southern Seabird Solutions Trust, Heritage Hotel, Auckland]

Thank you for the invitation to speak tonight.

Welcome to our international guests. I gather we have people here tonight from places including Australia, Peru, Spain, Chile, the Falklands and the United States.

We appreciate your interest in Southern Seabird Solutions, which is tackling a challenge that confronts all fishing nations - how to reduce the number of seabird deaths related to fishing.

Southern Seabird Solutions aims to lower the toll not just in New Zealand waters, but throughout the Southern hemisphere. I have been very encouraged by what I have heard about its work over the past year. As the Government has been working on a national plan of action for seabirds, the news from this organisation has been consistently good.

I am sure everybody here tonight is aware of the significance of New Zealand's coastline as a home to many of the world's seabird species, including many varieties of albatross and petrels.

New Zealand is an important breeding ground for approximately 80 seabird species and the greatest variety of albatross and petrel species in the world. Most of these birds are absolutely protected under the Wildlife Act, which means it is an offence to hunt or kill them.

Sadly, one of the key threats facing many seabirds is not hunting but the unintentional damage done by commercial fishing. Each year, seabirds are killed by being caught on hooks, entangled in nets or colliding with fishing gear. For some of these birds, death from fishing activity is a very real threat to the long-term viability of their population.

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Some members of the commercial fishing industry have made some good progress in reducing seabird deaths:

Voluntary codes of practice have been put in place in some fisheries, including the joint venture tuna fleet and the ling auto-line fishery. A code of practice is also currently being developed for the hoki fleet.

Research has been undertaken to develop new and improved mitigation methods, including exciting progress on an underwater bait-setting device

We need to build on this progress. I am told many times that no fisher wants to catch seabirds. But we still have a long way to go before we can hold our heads high in the knowledge that we have done all that we can to reduce the threat. Everyone in the industry must play their part.

The Minister of Conservation and I have recently been consulting on the draft national plan of action for reducing seabird bycatch in New Zealand's fisheries. We are at the stage of considering submissions on the draft, with the intention of finalising the plan by the end of this year and implementing it from early next year.

The approach of the draft plan is to encourage industry solutions where possible, backed up by regulation where necessary. It aims to change fishers' behaviour by giving them an opportunity to take responsibility for reducing seabird deaths in fisheries.

Fishers have the best knowledge about where, when and how vessels interact with seabird populations. They also have some of the best knowledge about what methods are effective in reducing seabird bycatch in their fisheries. If fishers take responsibility for the problem they can potentially address it in the most efficient and effective way.

The approach taken in the draft plan fits well with that of Southern Seabird Solutions, which is to build capacity and commitment in the industry by using role-model fishers to pass on their knowledge and attitudes.

I think this is a winning formula for changing behaviour. It enables a broad range of interests - commercial, governmental and environmental - to work co-operatively towards common goals.

Included with my invitation to speak to you tonight was a list of the work that Southern Seabird Solutions has been doing over the past year and some plans for the future. These include:

- a series of port side workshops for fishers in New Zealand;

- exchanges of crew between fleets in different countries;

- developing and testing new technologies;

- employing advisory officers in fleets overseas that catch New Zealand seabirds;

- producing videos, brochures, articles, media releases and a website to build awareness of the issue and solutions;

- co-ordinating integrated line weighting trails in New Zealand waters and at Australia's Heard & McDonald Islands; and

- liasing with French fishers catching toothfish around Crozet and Kerguelen islands, to reduce their significant seabird bycatch.

That's an impressive list of achievements and objectives for only one year in existence and you are to be congratulated.

I think the model adopted by Southern Seabird Solutions could very usefully inform the approach taken by stakeholders to other environmental effects of fishing.

One of the strengths of Southern Seabird Solutions is that its member organisations are able to work together without compromising their own core activities, whether that be fishing, conservation advocacy or implementing government policy.

I think those who have criticised the co-operative model need to update their thinking and acknowledge the results. I would encourage them to take up the challenge of abandoning the old way of doing things and get involved.

Tonight we're marking Southern Seabird Solutions' transition from an informal alliance to a Charitable Trust. This signals a maturing of the organisation and I'd like to acknowledge and thank all those people who have agreed to be Trustees.

The Department of Conservation is a founding member of the trust, while the Ministry of Fisheries is a supporter. This properly reflects the Department's role as a conservation advocate and the Ministry's obligation to avoid any conflict with its role as regulator and enforcer of fisheries laws and regulations.

I look forward to seeing Southern Seabird Solutions make further progress. It's not easy to get different interests to work productively together. You have managed this by recognising that everyone ultimately wants the same thing - to avoid seabird deaths in fisheries.

Congratulations on your achievements to date and best wishes for the future.

Thank you.


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