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Seabirds flying low over fishing vessel
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Seabirds are attracted to fishing vessels where they can become caught on hooks or tangled in nets. Credit: Ministry for Primary Industries

Campaign

Zero Bycatch

Conservation area:

Every year, thousands of protected dolphins, seals, penguins and albatross are caught by commercial fishing boats and thrown back dead or injured. Protected corals and other sea floor species are destroyed. The bycatch death toll is almost entirely preventable, and we want it to stop.

Why it matters

In New Zealand, it’s illegal to kill protected animals - unless you’re a commercial fisher.

Seabirds flying low over fishing vessel

Seabirds are attracted to fishing vessels where they can become caught on hooks or tangled in nets. Credit: Ministry for Primary Industries

Thousands of protected and endangered animals are killed on hooks, lines, and in nets every year, and we know the death toll is higher than is officially accounted for. This is driving some of our incredible ocean species towards extinction, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Commercial fishing is one of the most poorly regulated industries in New Zealand, and one of the least transparent.

There are over a thousand commercial fishing boats active in our waters but only 12 percent of them are actively monitored by Fisheries NZ at any one time.

The set net fishery, which lays enough net in a year to wrap entirely around New Zealand’s coast line, has only around five percent observer coverage, despite being notoriously dangerous for Hector’s dolphins, hoiho (yellow-eyed penguins), and other endangered species.

We don’t let people kill kiwi or tuatara, so why is it acceptable to kill endangered ocean animals?

Pie-chart showing set-net use around the country

Chart of set-net use around NZ coastline along with the extent of current monitoring. 

What do we want?

Forest & Bird is asking the Government and the fishing industry to commit to a zero bycatch goal and stop killing non-target species. We can do this by using the best fishing techniques, implementing stronger rules and enforcement, and by having cameras on all commercial fishing boats.

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