Mobile Menu Open Mobile Menu Close

Are we there yet? Seabird bycatch in Aotearoa and beyond

Graham Parker1

1126 Maryhill Terrace, Maryhill, Dunedin.

Aotearoa is the seabird capital of the world. Our diverse span of islands hold the highest number of breeding endemic seabird species, and more threatened seabirds, than anywhere else in the world.  The space our seabirds call home for at least part of their life-cycles is one the world’s largest marine exclusive economic zones. It is hugely important to Aotearoa ecologically and economically. Out there where everyday New Zealanders are not watching, seabirds and fishing vessels overlap in time and space, and at times seabirds are incidentally caught in fishing gear (bycatch).

In speaking with New Zealanders about seabird bycatch in commercial fisheries, I frequently find the problem is poorly understood, and often the ongoing challenge that bycatch presents to seabird conservation is underappreciated. Many seabirds have life history traits that make them highly vulnerable to population declines. Despite this, we are not doing a very good job collecting vital management data for many of our charismatic mega-avi-fauna.

Here I summarise the current state of seabird bycatch in New Zealand commercial fisheries and beyond, seabird bycatch mitigation practices in use, the legal requirement (or not) to mitigate seabird bycatch, current knowledge gaps, and touch on the challenges to reducing seabird bycatch from its current still-high state. I also use seabirds to briefly explore the contrasts in the approach our society currently takes to terrestrial versus marine conservation. Lastly, I suggest there is a role for a more decentralised path to achieving reductions in seabird bycatch.