Seabird smart and fish savvy
Outstanding advocacy for the protection of New Zealand’s seabirds by the fishing industry was recognised at Parliament this week.
New Zealand is seabird central, home to more than a third of the world’s seabird species, and the fishing industry has been making determined efforts to protect them.
Tom Searle, Leigh Fisheries operations manager, and Mike Black, Talley’s Bluff-based depot supervisor, have both introduced seabird risk management plans to the vessels they manage.
They received Seabird Smart Awards for their work, presented by Conservation Minister Maggie Barry at a function at the Beehive on Tuesday evening.
Special awards were also given to Wayne Dreadon, Whitianga-Coromandel Fishermen’s Association vice-president, and Ministry for Primary Industries observer Jamie “the birdman” Williamson for their advocacy work.
“It’s encouraging to see those who have gone beyond the call to raise awareness of seabirds and introduce mitigation in commercial fleets recognised by these awards,” Ms Barry said.
“Seabirds, from the giant albatrosses to storm petrels, play a vital role in our ecosystems, spreading nutrients from sea to land.
“And yet we know that they are in decline. Their long lives and slow breeding cycles mean many species are extremely vulnerable to the impact of humans on their environment.
“Fishing bycatch is one of the major threats faced by seabirds but there are many different ways fishers can help.
“We need leaders like those we honour tonight to build a culture of care within the industry so that seabird protection is seen as normal practice rather than an unnecessary burden.”
The event drew significant media coverage, with Tom Searle proving an articulate advocate on Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon with Kathryn Ryan.
Mike Black was reported in the Nelson Mail and on Stuff saying following his father around the Southland coast picking up beach rubbish gave him his first lessons in marine conservation.
Seeing seabirds trapped in plastic beer can rings or in bits of net had an impact.
“You can’t treat the environment like that. You have to give what you expect to get back and that’s what the fishing industry’s looking at these days.”
The significant progress made is reflected in the recently released Environment Aotearoa report which estimated seabird bycatch fell by 40 percent in the decade to 2013.
The Seabird Smart Awards, presented biennially, are sponsored by Sealord Group, Deepwater Group, MPI, Fisheries Inshore New Zealand, Aotearoa Fisheries Limited, Harbour Holdings Limited and the Federation of Commercial Fishermen. The Southern Seabirds Solutions Trust, founded in Nelson in 2002, is in turn financially supported by Seafood New Zealand, MPI, Department of Conservation, WWF-New Zealand and Te Ohu Kaimoana.
The trust’s motto is conservation through co-operation. Rather than finger wagging as some NGOs prefer to do, the trust encourages practical work with skippers and crews and recreational anglers to reduce harm to seabirds due to fishing.
Maggie Barry, a warm and engaging MC at the Smart Awards, had a busy evening, having promoted fish as well as birds.
A prior event was the launch of The Fishes of New Zealand at Te Papa.
This four-volume, 2000-page anthology is a standout on two counts – its depth and its weight.
The volumes are the most comprehensive reference to the fishes of New Zealand ever published.
They describe for the first time all 1262 known New Zealand fish species across 245 families.
This massive work is only the second comprehensive catalogue of our fish fauna. The first was compiled 143 years ago in 1872 by Frederick and James Hector (as in the dolphin) and outlined 148 species.
Clive Roberts, Andrew Stewart and Carl Struthers have done an extraordinary job in collating so much material.
The work weighs in at a hefty 11kgs, prompting both NIWA chief executive John Morgan and Maggie Barry to remark shop lifting will not be a problem.
Despite its depth, it is technically already incomplete. New fish species continue to be categorised at the rate of at least one a month.
For a Christmas gift that will last a lifetime – The Fishes of New Zealand, Te Papa Press, $250.