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 2017 and 30 June 2018, a total of 251 seabirds comprising 22 taxa were incidentally killed as bycatch and returned for autopsy by on‐board New Zealand Government observers. Birds were returned from 17 longline (n = 97 birds), 30 trawl (n = 143 birds) and 5 set net (n = 11 birds) vessels and were dominated numerically by six species (flesh‐footed shearwater Puffinus carneipes, Salvin’s albatross Thalassarche salvini, sooty shearwater Puffinus griseus, Buller’s albatross Thalassarche bulleri bulleri, white‐chinned petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis and New Zealand whitecapped albatross Thalassarche steadi. All birds returned from longline fisheries had injuries consistent with being hooked or entangled in the bill, throat or wing. In contrast, most birds (79.7%) returned from trawl fisheries were killed through entanglement in the net, cod‐end or pound, with 10.4% likely to have been killed by warp interaction or entanglement. Four birds were killed by striking the deck of the trawl vessel. Birds had slightly higher mean fat scores in comparison to birds from the last fishing year, and discards, including offal, appear to continue to be an attractant for many seabirds.
In addition to the seabirds that were returned for autopsy, examination of the Ministry for Primary Industries Central Observer Database (COD) and images provided by Government observers gave a total of a further 540 seabirds that were reported as interactions or photographed (as dead or alive captures) aboard 57 fishing vessels (and may include some noncapture interactions). Two‐thirds (66.5%) of the seabirds reported in these interactions were released alive. Out of these 540 records of seabird interactions, photographs were taken of 232 seabirds consisting of 17 taxa. Image quality varied widely, with poor images being particularly common for birds that were alive and seen on‐board for short periods. Images of dead birds have improved with multiple images taken for each specimen. Recommendations are made to improve photo‐identifications in the future.
Bell, E.A. & Bell, M.D. 2018. INT2016‐02 Identification of seabirds caught in New Zealand fisheries: 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018. Annual Technical Report to the Conservation Services Programme, Department of Conservation. Wellington, New Zealand. 38 p.