February 2019
Bright lights on cruise ships pose a risk to seabirds flying at night so DOC is working with the international cruise industry to help keep birds safe.

DOC is working with the New Zealand Cruise Ship Association and Cruise Lines International Association to reduce the amount of light from cruise ships and advise crews on what to do when dazzled birds land on their ships.

This advice sheet below has been developed by DOC and distributed to cruise ships sailing into New Zealand ports. This provides practical advice on ways to reduce the amount of light shining out to sea from vessels and how to manage dazzled birds that land on board.

Download the advice sheet

Seabirds landing on ships advice sheet (PDF, 695K).

Full text of advice sheet

Many New Zealand seabirds feed at night and, travel to and from their breeding colonies in darkness. Birds can be attracted to ship lights and may land on the deck. They may be momentarily stunned and disorientated and therefore unable to take off from the deck.

Manage lights on the ship to prevent birds landing

  • Close blinds/curtains on cabin windows.
  • Minimize unnecessary exterior lighting.
  • Shield essential external deck lights so they are directed downwards and reduce light wattage where practical.

If birds land on the ship, assess them quickly

  • If they are feisty with no obvious injuries, simply release them over the side of the ship. They will glide down to the sea or fly off.
  • If they are stunned or injured, hold the birds in boxes if possible:
    • one bird per box – so they don’t harm each other
    • place the boxes in the shade to keep the birds cool
    • release any birds overboard that have fully recovered after resting in boxes
    • inform port authorities as soon as possible to arrange pickup, of birds still in boxes, by DOC staff or local bird rescue.

If the ship is heading out to sea and won’t be in port the next day, release all birds overboard regardless of their injuries

What you can do to support ongoing research and data collection:

  • take two photographs of each bird prior to release; close-up of the bird’s head from the side and the entire bird showing the underwing pattern
  • keep records of date and location where birds came onboard and weather conditions at the time. Note if the bird was alive and unharmed, injured or dead
  • send photos and bird notes to


If in doubt, contact the DOC emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) or the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) on 0800 00 83 33.

Marine Species Team
Department of Conservation
PO Box 10-420
Wellington 6143


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