Reducing deaths of seabirds

One of our roles is to limit or reduce the impacts of fishing activity on seabirds. Find out what we do, the law and regulations in force, our plans, and how fishers can help.

What we do for seabirds

In May 2020, the government approved an updated National plan of action for seabirds.

National plan of action seabirds 2020 (NPOA)

This is a high-level document. It sets out:

  • the vision, goals, and objectives
  • the performance measures that will be used to monitor progress.

National plan of action seabirds 2020 [PDF, 9.4 MB]

Our work plan

We’ve also written a Seabird implementation plan. It summarises the work that will be done between 2020 and 2025, and how that work will help achieve the NPOA's objectives. The plan is a living document. We'll update it at least once a year.

Seabird implementation plan [PDF, 822 KB]

NPOA seabirds 2020 supporting document

This provides background and more details about the national plan of action. It includes:

  • the seabird risk assessment
  • the approach to mitigation
  • a description of each objective and performance measure.

National plan of action seabirds 2020 supporting document [PDF, 1.7 MB]

NPOA seabirds annual report 2018/19

This report provides the status of each performance metric as of the end of 2018/19 year. Progress towards meeting the objectives of the NPOA seabirds 2020 can be measured against this baseline report.

National plan of action – seabirds 2020 (2018/19 report) [PDF, 2.3 MB]

Do you have questions?

Check our FAQs on the national plan of action for seabirds [PDF, 96 KB]

Mitigation standards

One of the recommendations from the review of the NPOA seabirds 2013 was that guidance and defined standards of best practice mitigation needed to be in place before the next plan was implemented. Based on this recommendation, we’ve written 6 mitigation standards. We also have a draft version of a seventh, which we intend to review soon.

Mitigation standards relate to specific commercial fishing methods and set out what is required of effective mitigation practices for those methods.

Review of NPOA seabirds 2013

We compiled a review document that summarises achievements, problems, lessons learnt, and recommendations from the NPOA seabirds 2013. We used this in developing the NPOA seabirds 2020.

NPOA seabirds 2013 review document [PDF, 2.4 MB]

Laws and regulations help protect seabirds

Almost all seabirds in New Zealand are protected species. The Wildlife Act 1953 and the Fisheries Act 1996 contain regulations that reduce the danger of fishing for these birds. New Zealand also follows international obligations around seabirds and fishing.

Fishing gear regulations

Fishing gear used by vessels poses one of the biggest threat to seabirds. They're attracted to the bait and caught fish, and the gear involved can injure, capture or kill them. In New Zealand, there are regulations around using certain types of gear.

Bottom longline – NZ Legislation website

Surface longline – New Zealand Gazette  

Surface longline corrigendum for night setting – New Zealand Gazette

Seabird scaring devices circular 11 March 2010 (trawl) [PDF, 585 KB]

Protected species risk management plans

Protected species risk management plans (PSRMPs) are developed on a vessel-specific basis. They set out the actions a vessel’s skipper and crew will take to reduce the risk posed to seabirds (and other protected species) by the vessel’s operations.  To date, PSRMPs, or related documents, have been developed for all vessels in the following fleets:

  • Trawl vessels greater than 28 metres in length
  • Scampi trawl vessels less than 28 metres in length
  • Surface longliners

Read about PSRMPs for deepwater vessels

The NPOA Seabirds 2020 has an objective for all vessels that pose a risk to seabirds and other protected species to have a PSRMP. They have been developed for some vessels in the inshore trawl, bottom longline, set net and Danish seine fleet. The intention is that in the future, all vessels in these fleets will have a PSRMP

Seabird liaison officers

Seabird liaison officers communicate with commercial fishers to:

  • answer their questions on seabirds
  • plan ways to reduce accidental capture
  • increase the contact between Fisheries New Zealand and industry, to provide opportunities to collaborate on any seabird issues.

The role of research

We collect information about seabird interactions with fisheries in a database. This helps us understand what is endangering seabirds, and how best to respond. The data is made available to the public through Dragonfly Data Science. 

The Aquatic environment and biodiversity annual review (AEBAR) provides a summary of capture information and resulting analyses.

Working with external organisations

We promote policies and research within international conservation groups, like the:

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have any questions about the information on this page, email

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