Environmental Policy News

New Fishing Rules to Strengthen Seabird Protections

Fisheries New Zealand is bringing in new rules that will significantly reduce the risk of seabirds, including critically threatened albatrosses, being caught accidentally by commercial fishers.

From October 1, 2024, all commercial fishers using surface longline fishing methods will be required to either use special hook shielding devices or implement all three key seabird mitigations measures at the same time.

Emma Taylor, Fisheries New Zealand’s Director of Fisheries Management, says the changes mean fishers who chose not to use hook shielding devices must use bird scaring devices called tori lines (streamers), as well as use line weighting to sink hooks faster, and set their gear at night.

The measures, known as 'three out of three' replace the current rules which require only two of the seabird mitigation measures.

"The new rules will strengthen protections for some of our most vulnerable seabirds, like albatrosses and petrels.

"With around 145 seabird species calling New Zealand's waters home, we have one of the most diverse seabird communities in the world, and we want to make sure it stays that way.

"Fishers don't go out to catch seabirds, and these measures will help ensure that the surface longline fleet has the best chance of avoiding seabirds that are trying to sneak a feed off their hooks.

"While we acknowledge that many surface longline fishers have already adopted the use of hook shielding devices or use 'three out of three' at least some of the time, the new rules will ensure a consistent approach and further reduce fishing risks for these precious seabirds.

"Surface longline vessels have been operating onboard cameras since January this year. Insights from the camera program, along with feedback from public consultation and scientific modeling, have supported the decision for this rule change.

"We have systems to monitor the position of all commercial fishing vessels in real time, and fishers are legally required to report their catch and position to us electronically. Alongside this, onboard cameras provide independent verification of fishing activity, including accidental bycatch of protected species.

"Fisheries New Zealand and the Department of Conservation will be working closely with fishers to support them in transitioning to the new rules.

"Many seabird species found in New Zealand waters also travel widely beyond our borders. We continue to work with other countries, through international conventions, to reduce the effects of fishing on seabirds throughout the South Pacific and Southern Oceans," Emma Taylor says.

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