“The Ministry for Primary Industries has involved many groups including industry and environmental NGOs, in developing the National Plan of Action. This collaborative approach has led to common-sense processes that will deliver results,” says Tim Pankhurst, Chief Executive of Seafood New Zealand.
“New Zealand is geographically a global centre for seabirds and the New Zealand industry is committed to maintaining its role as world leader in reducing interactions between seabirds and fishing.
“We’ve welcomed the input of groups who want to protect seabird populations. They have a formal role in the Plan with us. And they keep the industry up to the mark just as much as the Ministry for Primary Industries does,” Mr Pankhurst says.
Mr Pankhurst says the seafood industry is continually looking at ways of reducing seabird interactions and he says the Plan provides a practical and structured approach that builds on good progress that has already been made since New Zealand’s first NPOA - Seabirds in 2004.
“Our industry, along with MPI and DOC, has collected a huge amount of information on seabird behaviour and distribution going back more than a decade. This gives an objective understanding of where and what the risks are, what further research should have priority, and how we can set our fishing operations to reduce those risks.”
Mr Pankhurst points to technology, such as weighted lines which sink the bait rapidly and tori lines where streamers scare birds away from the warp line of a trawl, as being very effective at reducing seabird capture.
“We have improved and refined them, with both trial and error and scientific experimentation over the years to work better, and increasingly made them mandatory in our fisheries.
“The Plan will ensure these devices continue to be an essential part of fishing operations. This includes training crews on their use and incorporating into each vessel’s Fish Plans on how we deploy these devices and monitor how effective they are,” he says.
“We look forward to being part of the Seabird Advisory Group that will roll out and monitor the plan.
“We are all committed to ensuring that fishing does its part in reducing seabird capture and mortality, and the Action Plan will deliver on this shared goal.
“For instance, mandatory use of such gear in one of our trawl fleets has cut the already rare capture rate of white capped albatross by 70 per cent.”
Mr Pankhurst said that the Action Plan complements the work industry has been doing in recent years with Southern Seabird Solutions Trust, an alliance including representatives from the New Zealand seafood industry, government, WWF and Te Ohu Kaimoana. The Trust takes a cooperative approach to seabird conservation and supports and encourages fishers in southern ocean fleets to adopt responsible fishing practices.