Stronger protection for seabirds

Albatross flying
© Bob Zuur /WWF-New Zealand
Press Release

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) New Zealand has welcomed the Government’s decision to strengthen protections for Aotearoa's threatened seabirds.

New Zealand has more species of seabird than anywhere else in the world, yet a staggering 90% are on the brink of extinction. One of the biggest threats they face is being caught accidentally as bycatch in commercial fisheries.

The Government has confirmed that from 1 October 2024 all commercial fishers using surface longline fishing methods will be required to either use special hook shielding devices or implement all three of the key seabird bycatch mitigation measures at the same time.

These include using bird scaring devices called tori lines (streamers), line weighting to sink hooks faster, and setting gear at night when birds are not as active.

WWF-New Zealand has long advocated for all three bycatch measures to be deployed at the same time – an approach that follows internationally agreed best practice and offers the strongest possible protection for critically endangered birds like the Antipodean Albatross.

WWF-New Zealand spokesperson Caitlin Owers said: "It's fantastic news that the Government will be strengthening protections for Aotearoa's threatened seabirds.

"For too long we've dragged our feet while critically endangered birds like the Antipodean Albatross have been needlessly caught on fishing lines and pushed closer and closer to extinction.

"WWF has long campaigned for stronger rules to reduce the threat of accidental bycatch and we're so pleased the Government has listened to the international evidence and finally seen reason on this important issue.

"Shocking recent data from the Government's cameras on boats programme revealed that albatross interactions were 3.5 times higher than we'd previously thought. It's vital we continue rolling out cameras on boats so we have a clear picture of the impacts of commercial fishing on our wildlife and can use the data to inform future decisions like this one.

"Aotearoa has more seabird species than anywhere else in the world and we have a moral responsibility to do everything in our power to protect them."