Protected species captures in New Zealand fisheries

4 August, 2017

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The latest estimate of the number of seabirds caught in New Zealand’s fisheries has been released by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). The protected species capture data for the year ending September 2016 is now available via a Dragonfly website.

The data is categorised by fishing method, species, region, vessel size and year with observed catches listed and estimated captures calculated.

Edward says, “The overall capture rates haven’t changed much but the total captures are going down and that’s what matters for the birds. I think fishing is becoming more efficient, so less fishing effort is required to catch the fish and that means overall, fishers are catching fewer birds.”

The total estimated number of birds caught by trawl, bottom longline and surface longline fishing in the 2015–2016 year was 4518. This is the lowest since 2002–03 (and close to half of what it was in that period).

Observer coverage of fishing activity has increased in general, although mostly on the larger offshore vessels. This has reduced the uncertainty in the statistical analysis. More seabirds have also been released alive from the trawl fleet.

There may be some encouraging signs for black petrel, the bird most at-risk from further population decline. Observer coverage has increased in both the trawl and bottom longline fleets in the Hauraki Gulf, and in 2015–16 there were no observed captures in the snapper bottom longline fishery.

“We are now starting to get a better idea of what’s going on. There’s been a decline in capture rates from the snapper longline fishery, which is likely to be associated with a change in snapper fishing from summer to winter. The birds spend our winters in Central America so they simply aren’t around then.”

“Since we started this work, MPI have released the data to the public, which promotes transparency. We’ve also made it friendly and accessible from a phone. There’s a lot of interest – this year several NGOs published their own analysis of it.”

View the detail of captures of black petrel in trawl fisheries.

White-capped albatross photo credit: Kristina Hoeppner.