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Forest and Bird to launch Save the Albatross campaign in New Zealand

13th December 2002

Contact: Eric Pyle, Conservation Manager Tel. 04 385 7374 (work), 04 233 2993 (home), 025 227 8420; or
Sue Maturin, Southern Field Officer Tel 03 477 5232 (work), 03 487 6125 (home)

Key dates and times

Forest and Bird will launch its campaign to 'Save the Albatross' as part of a global BirdLife International initiative at the Royal Albatross Centre, Taiaroa Head, Dunedin at 3 PM, Saturday 14th December 2002.

There will also be a press conference hosted by the Louis Vuitton Cup at 10.30 AM, Thursday, 19th December at the Americas Cup Media Centre in the Viaduct Basin, Auckland. Representatives from America’s Cup syndicates, the Whitbread Round the World Race and the Volvo Ocean Race will attend. The international group of sailors will be asked to sign large postcards that will be delivered to The Minister of Fisheries and the following embassies; Japan, Taiwan, Australia, South Africa, Spain, Chile and Argentina. These countries either have important long lining fleets or their exclusive economic zones contain important bird areas. Further details will be provided on Tuesday, 17th December.

Importance of this issue for New Zealand

Seabird conservation is a major issue for New Zealand said Eric Pyle, Forest and Bird’s Conservation Manager, speaking on behalf of BirdLife International. “New Zealand has more endemic albatross and petrel species than any other country.” Seabird scientists call New Zealand the seabird capital of the world. Albatross conservation needs to be taken as seriously as the conservation of our national emblem, the Kiwi.

Some albatross and petrel species have declined by 90% in 60 years, mostly due to long line fishing. “Extinctions will occur unless there are major changes to fisheries practices in New Zealand and around the world”, said Mr Pyle.

“Forest and Bird is proud to be part of the BirdLife International campaign to save the albatross” said Mr Pyle. An international approach is essential because these birds breed and range in different parts of the world so there are many longline fisheries that pose a threat to them”.

Well over 10,000 albatrosses and petrels are killed annually in New Zealand waters. 300,000 are estimated to be killed worldwide every year. “The level of albatross and petrel deaths in New Zealand waters is completely unacceptable” said Mr Pyle.

“Efforts by some fishing boats operating in New Zealand waters show that by adopting simple techniques it is possible to reduce seabird by-catch to very low levels”, said Mr Pyle. The Chartered Japanese Tuna Boats fishing operating in New Zealand waters are required to do so and have reduced seabird by catch in New Zealand waters from 4,000 per year to just 12 individual birds. “The techniques used were not rocket science. They involved some simple techniques and careful management”, said Mr Pyle.

Many New Zealand boats have been slow to follow suit and are not required to adopt the same measures that their Japanese counterparts are. For example, last year a single New Zealand fishing boat captured and killed 300 seabirds in a month-long fishing trip on the Chatham Rise.

Forest and Bird will be calling on the Government to develop an effective plan of action for New Zealand waters which adopts international best practice measures as a minimum standard. “The National Plan of Action must be effective at reducing albatross and seabird by-catch”, said Mr Pyle. “As the world's albatross capital New Zealand has a responsibility to show international leadership. New Zealand must be able to hold its head up high and challenge other countries. At the moment New Zealand cannot do this because its own house is not yet in order.”

The Ministers of Fisheries and Conservation last year rejected a draft national plan of action on seabird by-catch. A draft is expected to be released for public comment early in the new year.

Campaign goal

The overall Save the Albatross campaign goal is to virtually eliminate seabird bycatch. This goal is achieveable. For example, New Zealand vessels fishing for toothfish in the Ross Sean have not caught an albatross or petrel on longlines in 3 years.

To achieve this goal the following methods need to be implemented:

All longline fishing boats in New Zealand waters must adopt international 'best practice' measures to reduce seabird bycatch including avoiding certain areas at certain times of the year, night setting, weighted hooks and the use of tori lines and preventing discharge of offal.
Limits on seabird numbers caught which are reduced towards zero over several years. When these limits are exceeded the fishery is closed.
Creation of closed areas or marine reserves over parts of the ocean where seabirds congregate and areas where bycatch has been high in the past.
All threatened albatross and petrel species need to be listed as threatened species under the New Zealand Wildlife Act.
Observer coverage in all longline fisheries to ensure that mitigation measures are used and that the number and species caught is identified.

For more information