The National Plan of Action for Seabirds, released by the Government today, puts the fate of threatened species firmly in the hands of the fishing industry, says Greenpeace.

Jessica Desmond, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace, says the action plan panders to the fishing industry, asking them to adopt voluntary measures to save struggling species, rather than implement mandatory measures.  

“New Zealand is the seabird capital of the world. Many of the world’s seabird species nest along our coasts, and 90% of these are under threat or at risk of extinction,” she says.

“One of the main risks to these seabirds is getting ensnared in commercial fishing gear. Last year alone, the commercial fishing industry in New Zealand killed over 14,000 seabirds, and these rates have been consistent for a decade. It’s simply not good enough.

“The Government should have used this opportunity to implement mandatory legislation to reduce bykill events, but once again we see them pandering to the commercial fishing industry, asking for them to self-report and buy-in to schemes. 

“The time for this softly-softly approach is truly over.”

Desmond says the action plan paints a vision of a zero bykill future, but doesn’t put the measures in place needed to achieve it.

“We cannot rely on the commercial fishing industry to monitor themselves. In 2018, the only occasions endangered hoiho penguins were caught by commercial fishers were when they had observers on board with them. This is hardly a coincidence. Boats with observers onboard are nine times more likely to catch seabirds.”

“The commercial fishing industry must be required to be transparent and accountable for the threats they pose to seabirds and other ocean life, and for this to happen we need cameras on boats throughout the whole commercial fishing fleet now.” 

Greenpeace made a submission on the National Plan of Action for Seabirds in January, calling for cameras to be rolled out across the commercial fishing fleet, as well making it a regulatory requirement that all vessels use all best practise mitigation techniques, appropriate to their operations. 

Desmond says this plan falls short on both counts.