The liaison role has been in place with the snapper fleet in Fisheries Management Area 1 (East Cape to North Cape) since 2010, and with the bluenose fleet since 2011.
To date between one and three liaison officers have engaged with fishers each season. Management and reporting has occurred through various combinations of the Department of Conservation, the Ministry for Primary Industries, and a separately contracted coordinator.
The role works alongside other initiatives such as Southern Seabird Solutions Trust seabird smart training workshops, the National Plan of Action for Seabirds, and more specific action plans such as the black petrel and flesh-footed shearwater action plan.
The liaison program has concentrated on improving mitigation and engaging with fishers. Vessel specific documents were introduced in 2014 and these provide details of the approach to reducing seabird interactions on each vessel.
More recently, the focus has been on reviewing and auditing these seabird management plans to check whether they are representative of fishing practices and reducing interactions.
Liaison officers have worked with skippers and deckhands, often at sea, to refine and improve mitigation. The whole fishing operation including gear setup, setting speed, offal and returned bait management has been considered with respect to its influence on seabird interactions.
In practice, the liaison role has involved a large amount of listening to experienced skippers who have developed mitigation over many years. The role has provided a conduit to share this knowledge between skippers. Conversations with fishers also provide an opportunity to keep them up to date with mitigation developments and best practice advice, as well as pass on concerns to fisheries managers about other fishery related matters.