The Green Party can reveal that in 2019/2020, more seabirds were reported as killed by fishing than the previous four years.
Figures of increased reported seabird deaths came from answers by Te Papa Atawhai/the Department of Conservation to select committee questions as part of the 2019/20 annual review process.
“Aotearoa New Zealand is the seabird capital of the world with 145 seabird species using our waters and 95 species breeding here more than anywhere else. These magnificent seabirds should be thriving at sea and on land. Actual seabird deaths from by-catch in 2019/20 are likely to be higher than the 1020 reported because not all boats have observers,” Green Party spokesperson for Oceans & Fisheries Eugenie Sage says.
“In the same year we launched the new National Plan of Action for Seabirds 2020, off the coast, out of sight and out of mind, more and more birds were dying,” she says.
“We know this is because of the fishing gear used by commercial and recreational fishers. Many get killed by becoming entangled in set nets, hooked on longlines or can collide with the steel cable trawl warps.
“Albatross and petrel were at the top of the list. Just last week it was reported that 18 nationally vulnerable black petrels, and two flesh footed shearwater, were killed by one fishing company over six days. This rate of avoidable death could increase the risk of extinction for threatened species, such as the black petrel, which is a Hauraki Gulf icon.
“This high number of deaths shows that no matter how careful skippers are, current mitigation measures that boats use are not enough to protect precious sea-birds.
“During Seaweek, it’s time to recognise that if we want threatened seabirds to thrive and survive for future generations, fishers cannot keep using methods which kill these species.
“The objective in the National Plan of Action for Seabirds 2020 is that ‘the number of fishing related mortalities is decreasing towards zero’.
“Fisheries NZ and the Department of Conservation must enforce stronger measures to ensure we get down to zero by-kill and by-catch, as per the plan released last year.
“We must do more to protect these birds, which are part of a balanced ecosystem that keeps our oceans and land thriving.”