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New International Protection For Frequent Fliers


The endangered toroa/Antipodean albatross has new international protection for its 100,000km annual migration, thanks to collaborative efforts led by New Zealand, Australia and Chile.

Today, 130 countries agreed to strictly protect Antipodean albatross at the Conference of Parties on the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, held in India.

“New Zealanders care deeply about backing nature and backing birds like Antipodean albatross - it is a remarkable species, flying incredible distances every year, and is taonga/a treasure to Māori,” New Zealand’s Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage says.

“International cooperation is critical to bring the Antipodean albatross back from the brink of extinction. This agreement will help create stronger measures to reduce instances of Antipodean albatross being inadvertently caught by fishing vessels - including on the high seas – so these birds can migrate safely.

“Antipodean albatrosses are in serious trouble and need protecting. Numbers have halved since 2004 and we now only have 9,050 breeding pairs. At the current rate of decline, this species could be extinct within the next 20 years.”

“Antipodean albatrosses cross several international boundaries during their annual migrations. They breed on islands off southern New Zealand, then spend much of their lives flying over the Pacific Ocean, travelling to Australia and across the high seas to Chile.

“In New Zealand, we’re working hard to rid their breeding grounds of mammal predators. It’s not hard to see why their population is crashing - with so much travelling, these birds are very exposed to risks from fishing vessels where they can be caught and drowned on fishing hooks.

“We signed an arrangement with Chile in late 2018 to tackle the decline of our albatross, petrels and other vulnerable seabirds. Today’s agreement shows an increasing international consensus on the need to save seabirds from extinction.”


Background information

  • The IUCN Red List classifies Antipodean albatross as endangered. Its New Zealand conservation status is ‘Threatened – Nationally Critical’ – just one step from extinction and the highest threat category in the New Zealand Threat Classification System.
  • This is New Zealand’s first-ever proposal for an Appendix I listing. Mainland Asian elephant, jaguar and oceanic white-tip shark were amongst other migratory species given urgent protection at the Conference.
  • Antipodean albatrosses are absolutely protected in New Zealand under the Wildlife Act 1953. It is an offence not to report accidental or incidental killing of this species while fishing in New Zealand fisheries waters. Regulations under the Fisheries Act 1996 require mitigation measures to reduce albatross bycatch when fishing within New Zealand’s jurisdiction. The Auckland Islands and the Antipodes Islands where the species breed are National Nature Reserves under the Reserves Act 1977 and it is an offence to take, destroy or injure and bird or any nest. When fishing on the high seas, New Zealand flagged vessels must comply with relevant international conservation and management measures.
  • Fourteen varieties of albatross breed in the New Zealand region – more than anywhere else in the world. Naturally low productivity, combined with changes in climate and habitat conditions and fishing practices such as long-line fishing, make these seabirds highly vulnerable.
  • There are two subspecies of Antipodean albatross - Diomedea antipodensis antipodensis and Diomedea antipodensis gibsoni, both of which have undergone substantial population declines since 2004, following a period of population increase or stability in 1990s.
  • The Antipodes Island breeding population has halved since 2004. These great albatross species do not begin nesting until they are typically 10-12 years or older, and only raise one chick every two years. The current rate of decline, if it continues, could lead to functional extinction of the species in the next 20-30 years.
  • Antipodean Albatrosses breed on four island groups off southern New Zealand. However, they forage beyond New Zealand, in the high seas and other jurisdictions, from the southern and eastern coasts of Australia to the southern Chilean coast.
  • The new protections for Antipodean albatrosses mean they are now listed in ‘Appendix I’ of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.

· Nations that are signed to the convention and where Appendix I species range shall endeavour to strictly protect those species. This includes prohibiting the taking of Appendix I species, with very restricted scope for exceptions; conserving and where appropriate restoring their habitats; preventing, removing or mitigating obstacles to their migration and controlling other factors that might endanger them.

  • The species is at risk from fishing operations from multiple countries that fish in the South Pacific. The greatest risk is from surface long-lining operations, where these birds can be caught and drowned on fishing hooks. Other threats include predation by introduced mammals, plastic pollution and climate change.
  • The proposal was developed in New Zealand, in cooperation with Ngāi Tahu, the largest iwi in the South Island, and submitted by New Zealand, Australia and Chile to the Convention.
    In keeping with their kaitiaki (guardianship) responsibilities, Ngāi Tahu has an interest in ensuring protection of taonga species such as the Antipodean albatross, or Toroa, for future generations. The Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998 sets out how this special relationship must be recognised in practice. As a result of the settlement of claims between Ngāi Tahu and the Crown, Ngāi Tahu have a strong involvement in the management of taonga species such as Antipodean albatross, or Toroa, for example through Species Recovery groups.

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