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 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.

National plan of action – Seabirds 2020: Implementation plan [PDF, 832 KB]

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.

National plan of action – Seabirds 2020: Supporting document [PDF, 1.7 MB]

NPOA seabirds annual report 2018/19

This report shows how we're doing on achieving the objectives of the NPOA. It will be updated annually.

National plan of action – Seabirds 2020: 2018/19 report [PDF, 2.3 MB]

Do you have questions?

FAQs for national plan of action – Seabirds 2020 [PDF, 96 KB]

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

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]

Autoline bottom longline vessels [PDF, 703 KB]

Hand-baiting bottom longline vessels [PDF, 777 KB]

Set net vessels [PDF, 447 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.

Protect species liaison officers – Department of Conservation

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.

Wildlife Act 1953 – NZ Legislation

Fisheries Act 1996 – NZ Legislation

Fishing gear regulations

To make sure fishers catch fewer seabirds, there are requirements for fishers based on the fishing gear they are using.

Bottom longline – NZ Legislation

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 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 Seabirds 2020, 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.

Find PSRMPs – Deepwater Group

The role of research

We collect information about accidental seabird catches to help us understand how to prevent this from happening. to best stop catching them. Some of this data is available to the public through the protected species capture website.

Online database – protected species bycatch in New Zealand fisheries

The Aquatic environment and biodiversity annual review summarises all the information on seabirds and fishing.

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.

Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals

Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora

Southern Seabird Solutions

Find out more

Fact sheet: Requirements to use seabird mitigation devices on trawl vessels [PDF, 1.2 MB]

Review of the national plan of action – Seabirds (2013) [PDF, 2.4 MB]

Assessment of the risk of commercial fisheries to New Zealand seabirds, 2006–07 to 2016–17 [PDF, 3.5 MB]

Data on seabird and protected marine species caught by commercial fishers

Who to contact

If you have questions, email

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