Reducing deaths of seabirds
Seabirds sometimes get accidentally caught or killed by fishing gear. Find out what we do to reduce accidental deaths of seabirds, how fishers can help, and what the law and regulations are.
What we do for seabirds
Fishing gear used by vessels poses one of the biggest threats to seabirds. They're attracted to the bait and caught fish, and the gear involved can injure, capture, or kill them.
In May 2020, the government approved an updated national plan of action for seabirds (NPOA) which sets out:
- the vision, goals, and objectives to reduce accidental deaths of seabirds
- how we measure and monitor progress.
National plan of action – Seabirds 2020 [PDF, 9.4 MB]
Seabird work plan
We’ve also written a seabird implementation plan. It summarises the work that will be done between 2020 and 2025 to help achieve the NPOA's objectives. The plan is a living document. We'll update it at least once a year.
NPOA seabirds 2020 supporting document
This provides background and more details about the national plan of action. It includes:
- the risk to seabirds from fishing (seabird risk assessment)
- how we will reduce risk to seabirds
- more detail on how we measure and monitor progress.
NPOA seabirds annual reports
These reports show how we’re doing on achieving the objectives of the NPOA. For 2019/20, as well as the detailed annual report, we have also published a progress summary that provides a less technical overview of progress towards achieving the objectives of the NPOA Seabirds 2020.
National plan of action – Seabirds 2020: 2018/19 report [PDF, 2.3 MB]
What fishers must do to deter seabirds
To reduce the chance of seabirds being caught by longlines, fishers must use either:
- hook shielding devices, or
- streamer/tori lines to scare birds away from baited hooks, and either:
- set (put out) lines at night, when fewer birds are around, or
- weight lines so they sink faster.
Other techniques that fishers can use to reduce seabird bycatch include:
- managing offal to avoid attracting birds to the vessel
- dyeing baits blue to make them harder for seabirds to see.
Mitigation standards show how fishers can reduce the risk of catching seabirds.
Trawl vessels greater than 28 metres in length [PDF, 891 KB]
Trawl vessels less than 28 metres in length [PDF, 747 KB]
Scampi trawl vessels less than 28 metres in length [PDF, 890 KB]
Surface longline vessels [PDF, 632 KB]
- One page summary – Surface longline vessels [PDF, 234 KB]
Autoline bottom longline vessels [PDF, 703 KB]
- One page summary – Autoline bottom longline vessels [PDF, 186 KB]
Hand-baiting bottom longline vessels [PDF, 777 KB]
- One page summary – Hand-baiting bottom longline vessels [PDF, 185 KB]
Set net vessels [PDF, 447 KB]
- One page summary – Set net vessels [PDF, 155 KB]
Protected species liaison officers
Protected species liaison officers communicate with commercial fishers to:
- answer their questions on seabirds
- help fishers plan ways to reduce the number of seabirds they accidentally catch
- increase the contact between the government and industry to provide opportunities to work together on seabird issues.
Laws and regulations help protect seabirds
All New Zealand seabird species, with one exception, are protected species under the Wildlife Act and the Fisheries Act. The one that is not protected is the black-backed gull.
Fishing gear regulations
To make sure fishers catch fewer seabirds, there are requirements for fishers based on the fishing gear they are using.
Seabird scaring devices circular 11 March 2010 (trawl) [PDF, 585 KB]
Protected species risk management plans
Protected species risk management plans (PSRMPs) are developed for each vessel. They describe what the skipper and crew will do to reduce risks to seabirds and other protected species. PSRMPs and related documents have been developed for:
- trawl vessels greater than 28 metres in length
- scampi trawl vessels less than 28 metres in length
- surface longliners.
As part of the NPOA, all vessels that pose a risk to seabirds should have a PSRMP. In the future, all vessels using trawl, longline, set net, and Danish seine will have a PSRMP.
The role of research
We collect information about accidental seabird catches to help us understand how to prevent this from happening. Some of this data is available to the public through the protected species capture website.
A summary of information on seabirds and fishing is in the Aquatic environment and biodiversity annual review 2019–20 [PDF, 27 MB]
Work with other organisations
We work closely with the Department of Conservation and other organisations on seabird issues.
Find out more
Review of the national plan of action – Seabirds (2013) [PDF, 2.4 MB]
Who to contact
If you have questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org