The Ministry for Primary Industries is prosecuting a commercial fisherman in relation to the deaths of 38 albatrosses and is moving to put in place additional measures to help prevent further seabird deaths.
The charges relate to an incident off the West Coast in which 38 albatrosses died when a commercial fisherman fishing for Southern Bluefin Tuna allegedly failed to use a tori line – a mandatory mitigation device designed to scare birds away from baited hooks.
The skipper faces a maximum fine of $100,000 in relation to an offence under the Fisheries (Commercial Fishing) Regulations and forfeiture of the vessel used in the operation.
MPI Acting Director Fisheries Management, Steve Halley, says the decision to prosecute sends a clear message that the rules need to be followed.
"MPI works regularly with commercial fishers to reiterate the importance of bird mitigation and the need to comply with regulations designed to prevent seabird bycatch.
"Non-compliance is not acceptable. If there is sufficient evidence, prosecution action will be taken.
"MPI is now moving to put in place further mitigation techniques including mandatory use of line-weighting for all vessels using surface longlines.
"Line-weighting is used successfully in other fisheries as part of best practice by reducing the availability of baited hooks during the setting of gear."
Mr Halley says MPI will also put placement notices on the higher risk vessels in the Southern Bluefin Tuna fleet. The notices mean vessels cannot go fishing without an MPI observer on board.
"We've been working with industry in this area for some time and will focus on ensuring continuous improvements are made.
"New Zealand has a significant role to play in safeguarding the many seabird species within our waters. The changes MPI plans to make reflect that responsibility."