Submitted 27 January 2020: Read the NZCA's submission on the National Plan of Action - Seabirds 2020 Consultation Document.
  • Submission date: 27 January 2020
    Submitted to: Ministry for Primary Industries

The Legislative Basis for the New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA) submission

  1. The New Zealand Conservation Authority (the Authority) was established under the Conservation Act 1987, with members appointed by the Minister of Conservation. It is an independent statutory body with a range of functions, but primarily acts as an independent conservation advisor to the Minister and the Director-General of Conservation.
  2. The Authority has a growing role as an objective advocate on matters of national significance and interest in the conservation arena and provides high quality independent advice to the Minister of Conservation and to the Department of Conservation (DOC) on its strategic direction and performance.
  3. The Authority has a range of powers and functions, under the Conservation Act 1987, as well as under other conservation related legislation. Under the Conservation Act, Section 6C(2)(c), the NZCA has the power to “advocate the interests of the Authority at any public forum or in any statutory planning process.”
  4. One of the NZCA’s statutory functions is to approve conservation management strategies and conservation management plans, and review and amend such strategies and plans. They constitute the key management documents for directing conservation effort and resources in New Zealand. Many of these documents have objectives, policies and outcomes relating to the conservation of native species and predator control.
  5. Following the logic of the above powers and functions, the Authority supports work to review the National Plan of Action for Seabirds 2020 (NPOA-S) and appreciates opportunities to provide feedback on how this will be achieved.

NZCA Submission

  1. The following submissions are the NZCA’s main concerns about the proposals. The NZCA submission is based on the Authority’s analysis of:
    • The NPOA-Seabirds 2020 Discussion Document
    • The NPOA-Seabirds 2020 Supporting Document
    • The NPOA-Seabirds 2020 Implementation Plan
    • The Review of the NPOA-Seabirds 2013
    • Mitigation Standards

General Comments

  1. The National Plan of Action for Seabirds 2020 (NPOA-S) provides a concise reflection of the diversity, distribution, and susceptibility of New Zealand’s seabirds. However, the Authority has concerns that the current NPOA-S does not facilitate the necessary significant and enforceable changes required to tackle the continued and dramatic decline of several endemic seabird populations.
  2. New Zealand has the highest number of breeding seabird species in the world, with more than a third of all seabird species breeding on our shores. This is because New Zealand’s waters are highly productive, whilst the country’s islands and shores provide increasingly good opportunities for breeding grounds.
  3. Fisheries are, inevitably, attracted to the locations where seabirds feed and breed; subsequently, high numbers of seabird species, and locally high densities of seabirds, overlap with intensive fishing grounds. The result is a high frequency of seabird bycatch, which is not yet being managed as effectively as it could be. Rapidly declining numbers of especially vulnerable species, such as the Antipodean Albatross and Yellow-Eyed Penguin / hoiho, are indicators that more substantial changes must be made.
  4. The NPOA-S vision statement is good; however, the Authority must stress that in order to be implemented, a vision must be supported by clear measurement of actions and outcomes. The difficulty therein lies with insufficient monitoring techniques, resulting in a lack of data and knowledge with which to set targets. The ‘reduction targets’ in Goal 1 - Performance Measures 5-8, are an example of those that require further specification.
  5. The NPOA-S should do more to directly address how fishers are required to implement mitigation standards. A key issue in the past has not been the lack of potential mitigation methods or options, but poor implementation and enforcement. The lack of proposals for both monitoring, and enforcement in the NPOA-S is significant. In order to ensure that progress is made, mitigation standards must be compulsory, and must be monitored effectively with repercussions for noncompliance.
  6. The NZCA notes that the practice of discharging fish waste from fishing vessels into the sea, is a major component that attracts seabirds to the vicinity where nets are deployed. Despite the impacts of this practice, the NPOA-S only briefly refers to on-board fish-meal processing plants as a means of fish waste management. The NZCA would like to see this area developed and enforced in ongoing plans.
  7. The NZCA are concerned that the NPOA-S does not address the commercial harvesting of krill. This practice has a substantial impact on seabird populations and marine life.

The NZCA submits that: Goal 1 ‘bycatch reduction’ should read ‘zero seabird bycatch’, as to further support the commitment of “no fishing related seabird captures” declared in the vision statement.

The NZCA submits that: the implementation of mitigation standards and PSRMPs must be compulsory.

The NZCA submits that: all commercial vessels should have fish-meal processing facilities on board to lesson discharge of fish waste.


  1. The NPOA-S is lacking a commitment to strong monitoring practices. Most fishers are still not monitored. The government has been reticent to regulate this issue, due to the strength and resistance of the fishing industry to obvious options, such as bycatch monitoring cameras on all vessels. In order to fully understand the extent of the issue, and to effectively reduce bycatch, a robust method of monitoring must be implemented.
  2. The fundamental, underlying issue of the NPOA-S, is the lack of trust by the general public in reporting of seabird mortality on fishing vessels. Fisheries have little incentive to report on seabird bycatch, as any incident could negatively affect their industry. There are fisheries without observer coverage, such as the West Coast South Island inshore fishery, that are expected to independently report incidents of bycatch. As an invested party, their bycatch reporting lacks credibility.
  3. This lack of objective monitoring results in a scarcity of knowledge as to the level of seabird mortality. The NPOA-S cannot expect to measure the effectiveness of the mitigation standards, if we do not know reliably what the baseline bycatch rate is.
  4. Poor lighting on vessels at night contributes to a lack of reporting of seabird mortality. This issue is not addressed in the NPOA-S.

The NZCA submits that: in the next year 100% of fishing vessels should be fitted with a camera for monitoring of bycatch. This would provide accurate coverage to fill current data gaps and provide accountability for reporting bycatch and good fishing practice.

Trawl Fisheries

  1. Seabirds most at risk of drowning in trawl nets are adult breeding birds; the survival of these adult birds is a key parameter affecting seabird population. Measures must be taken to reduce fish waste discharged at sea, and greater monitoring is required to ensure all bycatch is reported.

The NZCA submits that: the NPOA-S should revise tolerance levels for seabird bycatch and enforce such revisions through increased observation. 

Longline Fisheries

  1. The threat to species facing extinction, such as Antipodean Albatross, is ongoing and severe. Attempts to halt the decline of this, and similarly threatened, species must be immediate and effective.
  2. All longline fishing in areas where endangered seabird species are known to breed must be banned. In the immediate interim, approved fishing equipment and seabird deterrents must be mandatory, and monitoring via camera or observer coverage must be implemented to ensure this is enforced.

The NZCA submits that: the NPOA-S should move towards a ban of longline fisheries from areas where endangered seabird species are known to breed.

Set-net Fisheries

  1. Set-net fisheries are a minor component of New Zealand’s commercial fishing, but implicitly present a high risk to seabirds, particularly to cormorants and penguins.
  2. In South East Otago and Southland, set-nets are used near kelp beds to target butterfish/greenbone. These kelp beds are crucial to the feeding patterns of cormorants and hoiho. Not only is the set-net fishing practice directly impacting these seabird populations, but it cannot be economically justified. Profits from the nature tourism that these seabird species attract to the region, is well in excess of the low value of the fish being caught.
  3. There is a growing number of set-nets being used inshore by recreational and commercial vessels, which remains unmonitored. An example, which is of great concern to Rakiura Māori, is the inshore set-netting taking place around the Titi Islands. This practice is targeting butterfish/greenbone and takes place in breeding areas for titi. As the most densely populated seabird species globally, this could prove detrimental to titi populations in a breeding season. Rakiura Māori have expressed their concerns to Ministry for Primary Industries for a number of years about the risks to titi and hoiho species, should this practice be allowed to continue.

The NZCA submits that: inshore set net fisheries have no effective mitigation measures, and therefore prohibition of this method is necessary. This is particularly vital near breeding areas of seabirds.

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