July 2023
This is the final annual report for INT2019-02: Identification of seabirds captured in New Zealand fisheries, 1 July 2021 - 30 June 2022.


The New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) supports a diverse range of seabird species. Much of the commercial fishing activity in the region overlaps with seabird foraging ranges. The accurate identification of bycatch seabirds interacting with New Zealand fisheries is vital for determining the impact of fisheries on these seabird populations. Between 1 July 2021 and 30 June 2022, a total of 568 seabirds were reported as incidental interactions with commercial fishing vessels by on-board New Zealand Government Observers; of these 242 seabirds were returned for necropsy, and 326 were recorded as interactions (photographed (n = 144) or non-photographed (n = 182)) as deceased or alive captures.

242 individual seabirds, grouped into 23 species, were killed incidentally as bycatch and returned for necropsy. Seabirds were returned from 45 individual vessels, comprised of 12 longline (n = 98 seabirds), 28 trawl (n = 118 seabirds), two purse seine (n = 6 seabirds), and three set net (n = 20 seabirds) vessels, and were dominated numerically by four bycatch species: white-chinned petrel (n = 83, 34.3%), Buller’s albatross (n = 33, 13.6%), New Zealand white-capped albatross (n = 25, 11.3%), and Salvin’s albatross (n = 21, 8.7%). These four species accounted for 66.9% of all returned seabirds. All birds returned from longline fisheries had injuries consistent with being hooked in the bill, throat, or wing. Most birds returned from trawl fisheries were caught through entanglement in the net, cod-end, or pound (66.1%), with 15.2% likely to have specifically interacted with the warp. The cause of death for seven birds was deck strike on trawl vessels. Birds had a lower mean body fat score in comparison to birds from the previous three survey years. Discards, including offal, appear to continue to be an attractant for many seabirds.

In addition to the seabirds that were returned for necropsy, examination of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Central Observer Database (COD) and images provided by Government Observers gave a total of a further 326 seabirds that were reported as interactions or photographed (as dead or alive captures) aboard 52 fishing vessels. Over half (54%) of the seabirds reported in these interactions and photographs were released alive. Out of these 326 records of seabird interactions, photographs were taken of 144 seabirds consisting of 16 species. Image quality had improved compared to previous reporting periods.

Publication information

Bell, E. & Larcombe, S. 2023. Identification of seabirds caught in New Zealand fisheries, 1 July 2021 to 30 June 2022. INT2019-02 final annual report prepared by WMIL for the Conservation Services Programme, Department of Conservation. 38 p. 


Conservation Services Programme
Department of Conservation
PO Box 10-420
Wellington 6143


Back to top