NZ: Government proposes seabird death limits in fisheries –

NZ: Government proposes seabird death limits in fisheries Published:  27 November, 2007

Albatrosses are said to be slow breeders

THE New Zealand Government has today published a document that proposes, as part of its commitment to sustainability, to set limits for the number of seabird deaths in New Zealand fisheries.

Fisheries Minister, Jim Anderton said the proposed seabird standard outlined goals that would help ensure the future survival of New Zealand’s protected species of albatrosses and petrels. It will do this by setting a seabird by-catch limit that the Government does not want exceeded.

“Consumers and the public want to know their food is produced sustainably. In New Zealand fisheries, this means limiting our damage to the environment and other species, as well as maintaining sustainable catches.

“Seabird bycatch is an area that must be addressed for our fisheries to be both ecologically and financially sustainable over the long-term. Doing this will require a joint effort, involving both government and industry.”

The draft proposals to manage seabird deaths in New Zealand fisheries involve:

* Setting clear seabird by-catch limits in New Zealand fisheries;

* Assessing whether a fishery will meet these limits without intervention;

* If intervention is needed, providing advice on whether regulations are likely to be necessary to meet bycatch limits;

* An assessment of the type of regulatory intervention required to achieve the seabird by-catch limit; and

* A transparent process for monitoring the fishery’s performance against its seabird by-catch limit.

The best information available to date suggests that in 2004, seabird by-catch in New Zealand trawl and longline fisheries was around 5,500 birds. However, there is uncertainty about the actual number of birds killed, and the scientific model used suggests this could have been as low as 2,500 or as high as 7,500 birds.

Jim Anderton said that work done in some of the fisheries since then has probably reduced this number.

However, he said that albatrosses and petrels are slow breeders and many of their populations cannot withstand a lot of extra deaths.

The draft proposals suggest a national seabird by-catch limit be set at somewhere between 500 and 2000 birds, and suggests how this should be monitored. The actual number will be set next year by the Minister of Fisheries following consultation.

Jim Anderton said the limit is not proposed as a mechanism to automatically close fisheries once a certain number is reached, but a performance standard for government and industry to work together to achieve. If the standard is not achieved then it is expected to prompt further action and regulation.

The Minister is inviting stakeholders and the New Zealand public to make submissions on the standard. Submissions close on February 18. is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.