This guide takes a closer look at 26 different types of seabirds that you may see in New Zealand's waters. Species featured in the guide are at risk of being caught in fisheries here and abroad.

This easy-to-read guide includes identification photos, information on breeding habits, risk status and land and at-sea threats to the birds.

This is a companion to the publication A fisher’s guide: New Zealand coastal seabirds.


Most of the birds in this guide breed in New Zealand and many breed nowhere else in the world. In fact, New Zealand is considered the seabird capital of the world because of the diversity of seabirds on our waters including the 86 species that breed here.

New Zealand’s seabirds include penguins, albatrosses, petrels, shags, gannets, terns and skuas. For this guide we have selected seabirds that are at risk of being caught in fisheries. Because most of the seabirds listed in this guide travel long distances, they face an array of threats while at sea including interactions with various fisheries, pollution and depletion of prey. These seabirds often face additional pressures at their breeding colonies.

Some of New Zealand’s fisheries now have mitigation measures in place to reduce seabird bycatch. Many of these mitigation measures are also being used in other parts of the world. There are numerous individuals, organisations and governments working to protect seabirds. 

Populations for many of the seabirds in this guide are so low that every individual plays an important role in the survival of its species. In other words, your efforts to reduce by-catch are critical.

Note: Because threats to seabirds may occur in several EEZs as well as international waters we have used the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of threatened species.

Publication information

Designed by Port Group Ltd.
Technical review by Marine Bycatch and Threats Team, Department of Conservation.
Last updated January 2024.


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


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