September 2007. The killing of 34 albatrosses by a fishing boat east of New Zealand demonstrates the need for urgent action to stop albatross by-catch in fisheries. A long-line vessel caught 12 critically endangered Chatham albatrosses as well as 22 Salvin’s albatrosses.
Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell says the high level of seabird by-catch by this vessel was totally unacceptable. ‘Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton has said in response to this incident that he is considering regulating to ensure all fishing vessels adopt best practice to avoid seabird by-catch, and that he is instructing his officials to identify what constitutes best practice’.
‘While Forest & Bird supports the minister’s actions, we already know what best practice is. We already know that mitigation measures – including weighting fishing lines, setting lines only at night, not discharging fish waste, and using bird-scaring lines – reduce seabird by-catch deaths by up to 90%. We call on the minister to act urgently to implement mandatory mitigation measures to prevent further disasters. Many other countries already require mandatory by-catch mitigation measures. Although many vessels complied with a voluntarily code of practice, the exceptions could result in slaughter of seabirds that put critically endangered species further at risk of extinction, Kevin Hackwell says.
‘The minister refers to this as an ‘accident’ but without mandatory requirements to use mitigation measures, this was an accident waiting to happen. The minister must act urgently to ensure no further ‘accidents’ occur.’
Chatham Island albatross facts
- The Chatham Island albatross (Thalassarche eremite, aka Chatham Island mollymawk) nests only on a single rocky island, The Pyramid, off the Chatham Islands, where just 5000 pairs are breeding. It is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN (World Conservation Union).
- Chatham Island albatrosses are threatened by fishing by-catch and habitat degradation.
- The recent by-catch deaths are likely to contribute to population decline of Chatham Island albatross in the next few years – its critical status means it is highly vulnerable to the risk of irreversible population decline and extinction.