More measures for seabird protection
13 September 2007
Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said the government is moving quickly to control further impacts from fishing on seabirds, including the critically endangered Chatham albatross, in view of a government observer reporting that 12 Chatham albatrosses and 22 Salvin’s albatrosses were accidentally caught by a long-line vessel fishing for ling and bluenose on the Chatham Rise last week.
“These seabirds are both globally threatened. The Chatham albatross is critically endangered and only breeds on one small island south of the Chatham Island. Any further incidents like this could place the species at risk and are completely unacceptable,” Jim Anderton said.
“This vessel is one of a few smaller vessels that are bottom long-lining in the deep offshore areas east of New Zealand. I’m advised that their operational practices differ from the larger bottom long-lining fleet, which have been successful in implementing measures to reduce seabird bycatch.”
Another government observer will be placed on the vessel that caught the birds, to monitor its next trip. The Ministry of Fisheries will be working with the vessel’s operators, and with similar vessels, to put in place measures to ensure this episode is not repeated.
“I expect there will be considerable support for this approach among commercial fishers, as seabird by-catch incidents of this nature are not acceptable to the wider fishing industry,” Jim Anderton said.
“The industry's response to this incident has been rapid and responsible and an industry expert has been advising and instructing the vessel’s skipper and owner on best practice methods to minimise accidental seabird capture.”
They have developed a revised set of gear and best practice guidelines for the vessel and are meeting with the vessel agent and skipper (a new one) today to agree to these.
Officials from both MFish and Department of Conservation have been instructed to identify best practice to reduce seabird bycatch. This best practice will be considered for regulation, across the board, in bottom long-line fishing operations, as in other fisheries.
Most bottom long-lining around the Chatham Rise is carried out by large vessels that have a voluntary code of practice, which has been very effective in reducing seabird captures on long-lines.
The larger boats use techniques that include moving away from areas of high seabird activity, using streamer lines to keep birds from approaching when long-lines are being set, weighting lines to make bait sink quickly, and not discharging fish waste while lines are being set.
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