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Albatross deaths prompt action from New Zealand

The world should follow suit?

The New Zealand government is considering imposing a temporary ban on surface longline fishing in the Kermadec Islands after a fishing vessel was reported to have killed 51 albatrosses in a single trip. Conservationists hope the ban will give the government time to implement mitigation techniques in the fishery, to reduce levels of seabird bycatch. Most of the birds killed by the fishing vessel were thought to be Antipodean Albatross, a Vulnerable species that only breeds in New Zealand waters.

"I don't want another incident like this occurring, so I am proposing immediate action under emergency provisions in the Fisheries Act." said Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton.

Forest & Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand) has publicly supported these urgent measures. “We applaud the measures proposed by the minister and urge him to fully implement them to ensure this globally threatened albatross species is protected.” said Kirsty Knowles, Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate. “The number of seabirds, including Antipodean Albatross, killed by this vessel is a major concern and at a level that can only be described as needless slaughter.”A Ministry of Fisheries report recently showed that the Australian-registered vessel, Seawin Emerald, fishing for swordfish in the Kermadec fishery in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), caught 58 seabirds as bycatch, including seven petrels and 51 albatrosses. Photographs taken by an observer on the vessel show that ‘a number’ of the albatross killed were globally threatened Antipodean Albatross, but because the birds were not brought on board as required, the exact number killed was not known. The Antipodean Albatross Diomedea antipodensis is endemic to New Zealand and is a globally threatened species - 19 of the world’s 21 albatross species are globally threatened with extinction and an estimated 100,000 albatrosses are killed annually by longlining.

"…solutions to reducing albatross bycatch are simple and easy to apply on fishing boats and the challenge is to apply them everywhere to avert such random destruction." said Dr Ben Sullivan , BirdLife’s Global Seabird Coordinator

Last month, a report by CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) highlighted the positive effect that international regulation can have on reducing levels of seabird bycatch. After a range of mitigation measures were put in place in the legal Antarctic toothfish longline fishery, seabird deaths went from several thousand in the mid-1990s to zero albatross deaths in the 2005/06 season. This success was attributed to a number of actions put in place: closing fisheries during the breeding season, setting lines at night (because albatrosses feed by day), using line weighting and 100% observer coverage."The large number of albatrosses killed during this one fishing trip in the Kermadec Islands underlines the importance of effective and well-enforced action to prevent albatrosses getting caught on longlines,” said Dr Ben Sullivan, BirdLife’s Global Seabird Coordinator. "It is heartening that swift action is being taken in this case to address what is clearly a serious breach of best practice, and it sends out a powerful signal: solutions to reducing albatross bycatch are simple and easy to apply on fishing boats and the challenge is to apply them everywhere to avert such random destruction."

BirdLife's ‘Save the Albatross’ Campaign is trying to stop the needless slaughter of these magnificent birds by ensuring that relevant international agreements are implemented that will benefit both the birds and the legal fishing industry. To find out what you can do to help visit our ‘Save the Albatross’ website: http://www.savethealbatross.net

4th July 2014