Black petrel project off to a flying start
Friday 2 November 2018
Somewhere in the vastness of the South Pacific Ocean is a black petrel named Leah.
And when, or if, that bird returns from its perilous voyaging in two to three years, no one will be happier than nine-year-old Leah Clow.
The petrel is named after her in recognition of her work over the past two summers on the top of Great Barrier Island on the edge of the Hauraki Gulf.
Leah has been helping out a seabird research team in company with her dad Adam, a commercial fisherman from Whitianga.
Adam, who has featured on Country Calendar and is also prominent in the Seafood NZ Promise and Code of Conduct campaign, is a staunch advocate for seabirds.
This season Leah and Adam helped attach satellite tracking devices to 14 black petrel chicks just before they fledged in a Southern Seabird Solutions Trust project funded by the Auckland Zoo Charitable Trust and carried out by Wildlife Management International Ltd.
The one christened Leah and the other 13 youngsters all made it safely off the island and out to sea.
Four of the devices stopped sending signals during the crossing, either because the battery failed, the device fell off, or the young bird died. The other 10 devices kept transmitting, some well beyond the expected lifetime of the battery.
The young birds were tracked for two to three months and travelled an average of 12,329km.
It is amazing the black petrels, or taiko, have survived given the way they have evolved.
Raised in burrows, they are abandoned when their parents migrate to South America.
After about two weeks on their own, something triggers the newly fledged birds to attempt to make their own departure.
They are unable to take off from the ground and therefore climb a handy tree or rocks at night. Generations of scratch marks are visible on bark and rocks.
Then they launch into the air for their first flight.
Some immediately soar… and some crash.
Then it is a case of trying again.
Once airborne, they set off on a maiden 12,000-km flight to the Galapagos Islands and the western shores of south and central America.
The young birds will mature here for two or three years, never touching land in all that time.
If they survive, they will return to Great Barrier and in smaller numbers to Little Barrier Island to mate and breed.
Landing can be even more risky than take-off. The birds are too clumsy to elegantly alight. Instead they crash through the foliage to the forest floor below.
The species once bred in colonies through the North Island and top of the South but is now rarer than the kiwi, rated “nationally vulnerable” with the population reduced to only 10-15,000 birds.
The seafood industry is a key supporter of the Black Petrel Working Group, which brings together commercial and recreational fishers, environmental interests, government and iwi to promote seabird smart fishing practices on the Gulf.
These include widespread training in seabird mitigation, testing and refining existing methods to deter birds from hooks and nets, as well as introducing improved monitoring, including the use of cameras, to prove methods are in place and are working.
Southern Seabirds Solutions Trust, which the commercial seafood industry co-sponsors, works with professional skippers and crew and recreational anglers to reduce harm to seabirds through fishing and played an important role in bringing the relevant organisations together.
And here’s hoping in a couple of years a brave little bird named Leah is reunited with her namesake.
Friday 21 June 2019
The dolphin threat management plan (TMP) released this week is all about image.
Friday 14 June 2019
Three years after the New Zealand fishing industry began a campaign to improve public perception of the sector, there has been a plethora of other work emerge on the topic of social contract, or social license, in the seafood industry.