June 2013
Read about the identification of seabirds captured in NZ fisheries for the 2011/12 year (July 2011-June 2012).


New Zealand waters support a diverse range of seabird species, but much of the commercial fishing activity in the region overlaps with their ranges. The accurate identification of seabirds captured in New Zealand fisheries is vital for determining the potential impact of fisheries on these populations.

Between 1 July 2011 and 30 June 2012 a total of 176 seabirds comprising 13 taxa were incidentally killed as bycatch and returned for autopsy by onboard New Zealand Government observers. Birds were returned from longline (n = 30) and trawl (n = 146) vessels, and were dominated numerically by four species (white-chinned petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis, New Zealand white-capped albatross Thalassarche steadi, Buller’s albatross Thalassarche bulleri bulleri and sooty shearwater Puffinus griseus).

All birds returned from longline fisheries had injuries consistent with being hooked or entangled in the bill or throat. In contrast, most birds (79.9%) returned from trawl fisheries were killed through entanglement in the net or cod-end, with the remaining 20.1% likely to have been killed by warp interaction. Two birds were killed by striking the deck. Birds had similar mean fat scores as in the previous fishing year, and discards, including offal, appear to continue to be an attractant for many seabirds.

Out of 138 records of seabird captures on fishing vessels, photographs were taken of 52 seabirds. Image quality varied widely, with poor images being particularly common for birds that were alive and seen onboard for short periods. Recommendations are made to improve photo-identifications in the future.

Publication information

Author: Elizabeth Bell, Wildlife Management International Limited


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


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