NZ: Seabird protection rules clarified –

NZ: Seabird protection rules clarified Published:  02 May, 2008

Seabirds such as albatrosses are attracted to fishing vessels

THE Ministry of Fisheries and Maritime New Zealand are working with the fishing industry to address concerns over the introduction of measures to protect seabirds from being accidentally killed during fishing operations.

These measures were announced by Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton on February 21 and will require fishing vessels to retain fish, offal and trimmings on board when risk to seabirds from fishing is greatest and to use devices to scare seabirds away from danger areas.

MFish is aware that some fishers believe that new rules relating to smaller inshore trawlers and longliners will require them to block scuppers or freeing ports (holes that allow water to drain off a fishing vessel’s deck).

Both Maritime NZ and MFish recognise that blocking of freeing ports or scuppers could seriously affect vessel stability, MNZ Safe Ship Management development manager, Sharyn Forsyth said.

“MNZ has made it clear at all stages of this process that the closure or blocking of freeing ports under any conditions is not acceptable, and MFish is in full agreement.”

Ministry of Fisheries national environmental manager, Steve Halley said the intent of the regulations was not to place vessels at risk.

“Fishers can be assured that these measures do not require fishing vessels to have their scuppers blocked” he said. “Blocking scuppers is not, and has never been an option.”

Mr Halley said MFish recognised that the requirement to retain fish, offal and trimmings on board may affect some vessel’s stability and present a potential safety concern.

“In recognition of this, trawlers will be able to apply for an exemption to the requirement to retain offal on board. The possibility of alternative means of compliance for longliners in certain conditions is being also explored.”

A series of meetings is being held throughout the country, involving fishers, MFish and MNZ. These meetings are working out the details of how fishers can apply for an exemption and what the assessment criteria will be.

“All parties are committed to working towards developing practical measures that will meet the government’s objective of reducing seabird mortality while ensuring that safety is maintained,” Mr Halley said.

Seabirds such as albatrosses and petrels are attracted to fishing vessels by the bait that is put on longlines and also by the fish, offal and fish trimmings that are discharged from the vessels when they process their catch.

The birds can dive down under the water and take longline baits, become hooked and drown, or can be distracted by feeding on offal and fish discharge and get hit by the heavy steel cables that tow trawl nets. 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.