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Seabird trip a success

Thursday 8 December 2016

Westland petrels regularly follow fishing boats looking for bait or offal, and have been recorded caught on fishing hooks and in trawl nets.

Deepwater Group fisheries adviser Richard Wells said it had been working with fishermen operating on the Coast to reduce the risks to seabirds from fishing.

“It has been heartening to see that the fishermen understand the importance of this work and they have quickly adopted practices on their vessels such as flying streamer lines to keep seabirds away from hooks, and holding fish waste on board to avoid attracting seabirds in the first place.”

After hearing about the success of the seabird trips arranged for the Hauraki Gulf fishermen by the charitable trust Southern Seabird Solutions, Punakaiki local and marine scientist Sunkita Howard organised a similar trip for Coast fishermen.

Westfleet commercial fisherman Adam Duff said this morning he already had an interest in the birds but seeing them in their breeding environment was very different to seeing them at sea.

“It was interesting.”

Tour guide Bruce Stuart-Menteath said it was great to see interest in the Westland petrel from people involved in the fishing industry.

“I enjoyed hearing their perspectives on the petrel’s behaviour at sea, particularly their feeding behaviour, which we don’t see on land.

“The fishing industry plays an important part in the protection of many species of seabird and to this  end  we hope to make visits from fishermen to the petrel colony a regular event.”

The colony is located on his family property near Punakaiki and “together we have been monitoring the colony, conducting pest control and running tours there for almost 30 years”.

The tours had largely served to fund the monitoring and pest control.

“We recently created the Westland Petrel Conservation Trust to better facilitate these kinds of activities.”

Westland petrels breed only on the West Coast.

- Laura Mills

Reproduced with the permission of the Greymouth Star

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