Bycatch of protected species: seabirds

  • Image, Bycatch of protected species: seabirds.

    Along with sea lions, fur seals, and dolphins, seabirds are the protected species most directly affected by fisheries in New Zealand waters (exclusive economic zone and territorial sea). Estimating seabird deaths from bycatch in commercial fishing is one way of assessing the pressure some seabird species face from current fishing practices. About one-third of our 92 resident seabird species and subspecies are considered to be threatened with extinction. We report on the risk of death from commercial fishing for 70 seabird species and subspecies.

    We classified Bycatch of protected species: seabirds as a case study.

    Key findings

    For 2006–07 to 2012–13, five species of seabirds threatened with extinction and six species of seabirds at risk of extinction had a high or very high risk of fishing-related deaths.

    • Two albatross species – Gibson's wandering and Salvin's – are classified as nationally critical (the highest risk of extinction) and have a very high risk of fishing-related deaths. 
    • In the 2014 fishing year, an estimated 623 Salvin’s albatross were killed as bycatch in fishing.
    • Overall, estimated seabird bycatch numbers decreased from an estimated 9,185 birds in 2003 to 5,075 in 2014.
    • Decreases in overall bycatch could be due partly to mitigation measures, such as bird-scaring devices.

    Figure 1

     

    Note: Information on the seabird species covered can be found in our data service or in Richard and Abraham (2015).

    Figure 2

    Note: Estimated numbers are derived from incidental bycatch reported by Ministry for Primary Industries observers on board fishing vessels. They are likely to be an underestimate. See ‘Definition and methodology’ for more information.

    Figure 3

    Note: Estimated numbers are derived from incidental bycatch reported by Ministry for Primary Industries observers on board fishing vessels. They are likely to be an underestimate. See ‘Definition and methodology’ for more information.

    Definition and methodology

    We report on the risk of threatened and at-risk seabirds dying as a result of fishing activities each year for 70 seabird species, in relation to their status in the New Zealand Threat Classification System (Townsend et al, 2008). We also report on estimated bycatch of seabirds in New Zealand waters.

    The threat status of seabird species is taken from the latest Conservation Status of New Zealand Birds (Robertson et al, 2013). The fishing-related mortality category is derived from a semi-quantitative risk assessment conducted by Richard and Abraham (2015), as reported in the Aquatic Environment Biodiversity Annual Review 2015 (Ministry for Primary Industries, 2016).

    The estimated annual seabird bycatch in trawl and longline fisheries is reported at two levels: 

    • for the Salvin’s albatross (to illustrate how fisheries affect a threatened bird species with a very high risk of fishing-related death) 
    • for all seabirds (to illustrate how fisheries affect New Zealand seabirds).

    Estimated bycatch was derived from the number of incidental captures reported by Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) observers on board fishing vessels. For more information, see Richard and Abraham (2015). The bycatch estimates are likely to be underestimated: MPI has identified that less than 2 percent of observed protected species captures each year were not recorded in the Centralised Observer Database. Accordingly, some estimates of protected species captures or risk may have a small negative bias. The database and estimates of protected species captures and associated risks will be updated and then reviewed by the Aquatic Environment Working Group in the second quarter of 2016 (Ministry for Primary Industries, 2016).

    Of the 92 seabird species and subspecies that breed in New Zealand, 32 are considered to be threatened (Robertson et al, 2013). Nearly all seabirds are protected under schedule 3 of the Wildlife Act 1953.

    Information on the seabird species covered in our reporting can be found in our data service or in Richard and Abraham (2015). Note that: 

    • the yellow-eyed penguin populations are treated separately because the mainland population’s range overlaps with inshore set net and trawl fishing while the population that lives on offshore islands is at much lower risk from fishing because its range does not overlap with those fisheries (Richard & Abraham, 2015) 
    • the risk for common diving petrel Pelecanoides urinatrix is assessed at the species level (Richard & Abraham, 2015), but the conservation status is assessed by Robertson et al (2013) at the subspecies level. Both native subspecies P. u. urinatrix and P. u. chathamensis ware assessed as ‘at risk: relict’.

    The commercial fishing year for most fish stocks goes from 1 October to 30 September, but some fish stocks have a fishing year of 1 April to 31 March.

    Data quality

     Topic Classification   Relevance Accuracy 
    Resource use and management, and other human activities Case study

    relevance-partial 
    Partial

    accuracy-medium 
    Medium

    See Data quality information for more detail.

    References

    Ministry for Primary Industries (2016). Aquatic environment and biodiversity annual review 2015. Compiled by the Fisheries Management Science Team. Retrieved from www.mpi.govt.nz.

    Richard, Y, & Abraham, ER (2015). Assessment of the risk of commercial fisheries to New Zealand seabirds, 2006–07 to 2012–13. Aquatic environment and biodiversity report 162. Retrieved from www.mpi.govt.nz.

    Robertson, HA, Dowding, JE, Elliott, GP, Hitchmough, RA, Miskelly, CM, O’Donnell, CFJ, … Taylor, GA (2013). Conservation status of New Zealand birds, 2012. New Zealand Threat Classification Series 4. Retrieved from www.doc.govt.nz.

    Townsend, AJ, de Lange, PJ, Duffy, CAJ, Miskelly, CM, Molloy, J, & Norton, DA (2008). New Zealand Threat Classification System manual. Retrieved from www.doc.govt.nz.

    Archived pages

    See Bycatch of protected species: seabirds (archived October 2016).

    Updated 27 October 2016

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