Awards celebrate seabird protection

Outstanding advocacy for protection of New Zealand’s seabirds by the fishing industry has been recognised tonight at the Seabird Smart Awards, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry say.

“New Zealand is a home for more than one third of the world’s seabird species and we have a responsibility as a nation to ensure they survive,” Ms Barry says.

“Some 35 per cent of the 92 species which visit our waters are under threat of extinction and the key to their protection is to reduce bycatch in fishing operations.

“It’s encouraging to see those who have gone beyond the call to raise awareness of seabirds and introduce mitigation in commercial fleets recognised at the awards at Parliament tonight.”

The Seabird Smart Awards are presented biennially by the Southern Seabird Solutions Trust, a key partner for DOC and the Ministry for Primary Industries. Nominations are sought from within the industry and environmental groups.

“The New Zealand fishing industry has made significant progress reducing bycatch over the last decade, as shown in the recently-released Environment Aotearoa report, which estimated bycatch fell around 40 per cent from 2002-03 to 2012-13,” Mr Guy says.

“Award-winners Tom Searle of Leigh Fisheries and Mike Black of Talley’s have both introduced seabird risk management plans to the vessels which they manage. Their efforts are not only protecting seabirds but helping New Zealand seafood become recognised nationally and internationally as seabird friendly,” Mr Guy says.

Special awards were also given to Wayne Dreadon, vice president of the Whitianga-Coromandel Peninsula Fishermen’s Association, and to Government fisheries observer Jamie Williamson for their advocacy work.

DOC supports seabirds through ongoing population monitoring of threatened species like the white-capped albatross and black petrel, research into mitigation methods and through pest control and eradication at important breeding sites such as Raoul Island and the Chathams.

MPI promotes seabird protection through having observers on vessels, and assists the industry by providing ongoing support to fishers and checking seabird risk management plans on vessels are adhered to.