Sea bird carnage won't end with one prosecution

Forest & Bird says it welcomes the prosecution of a commercial fisher who refused to use the required bird deterrents and caught 38 albatrosses, but says the long line fishing industry must be better regulated to prevent the deaths of many more threatened and critically endangered birds.

“Most of our albatrosses only breed in NZ and are at risk in this fishery. We suspect that if there had not been an observer on board this particular vessel, the deaths of these birds would have gone unreported,” says Forest & Bird's sea bird advocate Karen Baird.

“Critically endangered species such as the Antipodean albatross are likely to have been included in the deaths, one of many of our albatross species regularly killed in this fishery”.

“Forest & Bird has been concerned for some time that the very low level of observer coverage in the domestic bluefin tuna longline fishing fleet has hidden the potential for extremely poor practice for avoiding seabird deaths,” says Ms Baird.

“The fact this fisher was caught by an on-board MPI observer confirms the critical need to have much higher levels of observer coverage of the domestic surface longline fishing fleet. MPI also needs to rapidly deploy electronic monitoring throughout the fishing industry to keep fishers honest”.

“We welcome MPI’s move to make weighting of the lines mandatory, which is long overdue. However, we urge them to go further and adopt recognised international best practice by requiring all three mitigation methods of line weighting, tori lines (streamers) and night-time fishing, together”.

“This particular incident is obviously a disaster for sea birds, but Forest & Bird also see this as an opportunity for MPI to push forward with regulating for line weighting throughout this fishery in the 2016/17 Annual Operating Plan (AOP) which is due to be completed in July."

“Without full commitment from MPI to properly regulate and monitor this industry, we expect that the annual sea bird carnage will continue but most of it will go unreported and undetected, something these majestic ocean-going birds cannot afford,” says Ms Baird.