Environment

These sections outline New Zealand's approach to sustainable use of its vast marine environment.

Supply Chain

These sections outline New Zealand's approach to ensuring supply chain integrity within the seafood industry.

People

These sections outline New Zealand's approach to the welfare of workers and indigenous communities involved in seafood production.

Associated species.

Potential risks to seabirds, marine mammals and other fish species are monitored and managed.
The seafood industry plays an active role in minimising impacts on associated species through investment and adoption of scientific research, technology and mitigation techniques, as well as supporting protection areas.
8 sanctuaries
NEW ZEALAND HAS EIGHT MARINE MAMMAL SANCTUARIES TO HELP PROTECT HECTOR'S AND MAUI DOLPHINS, NEW ZEALAND SEA LIONS, FUR SEALS AND THE SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALE.
The nature and extent of interactions between protected species and some New Zealand commercial fisheries has been documented by government fisheries observers since the 1990s. In general, the extent of these interactions is better understood for large-scale high-volume fisheries compared to smaller-scale inshore fisheries.
All marine mammals and reptiles, most seabirds and corals, and many other marine species are fully protected under New Zealand law.
This section provides an overview of how New Zealand monitors and manages risks to seabird, marine mammal and other fish populations due to commercial fishing activities. Although commercial fishing is only one of many threats to these species, the seafood industry plays a significant role in ensuring their ongoing sustainability. More information on the status of individual species, management plans and industry intiatives can be found by clicking on the Related Sections, Deeper Reading or downloable PDF features.

New Zealand uses a risk-based approach.

New Zealand’s management of interactions between commercial fishing activities and other non-commercial species is broadly based on the status of associated species populations and risks to those populations. Risk assessments highlight priorities for investment and management action.

Both the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Department of Conservation have regulatory responsibilities for managing interactions between commercial fishing activities and associated non-commercial species.


Seabirds

New Zealand is often referred to as the seabird capital of the world – 96 breeding seabird taxa occur here. These include albatross, petrels, shearwaters, penguins, shags, and many others. For some species groups, the diversity found in New Zealand is greater than anywhere else in the world.

Seabird interactions with commercial fishing activities are best understood for the longline and trawl fisheries. Across all New Zealand commercial fisheries for which information is available, annual potential seabird fatalities are estimated at between 11,900 and 17,500. Estimated seabird captures in fisheries using the trawl and surface longline methods have decreased since the early 2000s.

The four species populations assessed as at risk of being incidentally caught in New Zealand fisheries at levels in excess of their sustainability limits are black petrel (Procellaria parkinsoni), Salvin’s albatross (Thalassarche salvini), flesh-footed shearwater (Puffinus carneipes), and Westland petrel (Procellaria westlandica).

Policy guidance for managing risks to seabird populations due to commercial fishing activities is provided by New Zealand’s National Plan of Action for Seabirds. Requirements under fisheries law relevant to the management of seabird interactions with commercial fishing include;

– Reporting requirements that apply when seabirds are caught in commercial fishing operations,
– Prohibition of net-sonde monitor cables,
– Requirement to use one of three specified seabird bycatch reduction devices on trawlers > 28 m in overall length (streamer lines, bird bafflers, or warp scarers),
– Requirement to use streamer lines on bottom longline vessels > 7 m in length, night-set, and line-weight in specified combinations, and manage fish waste discharge, and
– Requirement to use streamer lines, night-setting and line-weighting in specified combinations on surface longline vessels.

Non-binding initiatives aimed at addressing seabird interactions with fishing activities include vessel-based management plans and liaison activities, capacity-building amongst vessel operators and crew, research and monitoring, and operational conformance measures.


Marine Mammals

Since 1992, captures of 16 taxa of marine mammals have been reported to result from commercial fishing activities in New Zealand. These captures include two species of baleen whales, nine toothed whale taxa, three species of seal and one species of sea lion.

New Zealand’s management of interactions between marine mammals and commercial fishing activities is broadly based on the status of marine mammals and risks to their populations. Species-specific risk assessments have been conducted for two high profile marine mammals, the Māui dolphin and New Zealand sea lion. A multi-species risk assessment is also underway.

Maui dolphin is classified as Nationally Critical by the New Zealand Threat Classification System. An expert panel conducting the 2012 risk assessment concluded that the estimated level of human-induced mortality, including commercial fishing, is higher than the population can sustain. The most recent estimate of Māui dolphins aged one year or older is 63 animals (range 57 – 75). This range is higher than previously estimated.

The New Zealand sea lion risk assessment focused on the two best known breeding populations, occurring at the Auckland Islands and Otago Peninsula. For the Auckland Islands population, the greatest risks were identified as disease (Klebsiella and hookworm), commercial trawl fishing, male aggression, trophic conditions (prey availability), and entrapment and death in mud wallows. Addressing any one of these risks was considered inadequate to resolve the population decline that is evident at the Auckland Islands. Instead, the assessment showed that a holistic view to addressing risks is required.

Management measures developed and implemented to manage fishing interactions with associated species are informed by the risk assessments described above. Species-specific actions are described in threat management plans, which have been completed for the New Zealand sea lion and Māui and Hector’s dolphins. Actions include area-based restrictions on fishing activity and increased monitoring of commercial fishing activities in some areas. Additional mitigation measures have also be put in place, such as the use of Sea Lion Exclusion Devices for all vessels in the squid trawl fishery.

Non-binding initiatives aimed at addressing marine mammal interactions with fishing activities include industry-led vessel-based risk management plans and liaison activities, research and monitoring, and operational conformance measures.


Fish Not Landed

New Zealand law clearly states the landing and catch reporting requirements for all commercially caught fish in New Zealand. For the 123 fish species managed within the Quota Management System (QMS), the law generally requires the landing and reporting of any catch.

However, the law also has provisions for legally returning fish to the sea. These provisions generally relate to sustainability or vessel safety purposes. They are;

– Being less than the minimum legal size (16 species have a Minimum Legal Size) ;
– Being allowed under Schedule 6 of the Fisheries Act (33 species have a Schedule 6 provision) ;
– Being necessary to ensure the safety of the vessel or any crew member ;
– Being a part of fish, aquatic life, or seaweed lawfully processed on a vessel ; or
– Authorised by a government authorised observer.

For any fish species not managed within the QMS, catch may be landed or returned to the sea at the fisher’s choice. However, all such catch must be reported to the Government, irrespective of being landed or returned to the sea.

Notwithstanding the general requirement to land all catch of QMS managed species subject to the regulated exceptions referred to above, it is known that there is some catch of QMS species which is illegally returned to the sea and not reported on any catch returns. Research by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) estimated that for every kg of catch, approximately 6% of the catch is returned to sea. This includes fish both legally and illegally returned to sea.

The term "discards" is often used in association with commercial fishing activity. However, the term “discards” is not used or defined in legislation, regulation or case law in New Zealand fisheries. All fish is defined as either legally or illegally "returned to sea".
Sea Lion Exclusion Devices, or SLEDs, are solid stainless steel grids inserted into the trawl net that allow sea lions to escape unharmed when they encounter the grid. Scientific observations have proved that SLEDs direct the majority of sea lions out of the net.
Seabird Factsheet
Download a short summary of the key points about seabird interactions. The professionally designed format makes it easy to share soft copies and print hard copies.
Infographic of Relevant Government frameworks (Seabirds)
Download a visual summary of the Government frameworks relevant to interactions between commercial fishing and seabirds.
Associated Species (Seabirds) Section Detail Report
To learn more about how New Zealand manages risks and interactions between commercial fishing activities and seabirds, download the full OpenSeas report here. All references and links (where available) are included.
Marine Mammals Factsheet
Download a short summary of the key points about marine mammal interactions. The professionally designed format makes it easy to share soft copies and print hard copies.
Infographic of Relevant Government frameworks (Marine Mammals)
Download a visual summary of the Government frameworks relevant to interactions between commercial fishing and marine mammals.
Sea Lion Exclusion Device
Download a diagram showing how Sea Lion Exclusion Devices work on New Zealand vessels.
Associated Species (Marine Mammals) Section Detail Report
To learn more about how New Zealand manages risks and interactions between commercial fishing activities and marine mammals, download the full OpenSeas report here. All references and links (where available) are included.
Fish Not Landed Factsheet
Download a short summary of the key points about non-retained fish bycatch. The professionally designed format makes it easy to share soft copies and print hard copies.
Associated Species (Fish Not Landed) Section Detail Report
To learn more about fish not landed during the course of commercial fishing operations, download the full OpenSeas report here. All references and links (where available) are included.
More information about New Zealand's approach to managing populations of protected species and the spatial tools used to protect marine biodiversity can be found under "Marine Conservation".
It is not illegal to capture or kill a protected seabird or marine mammal accidentally or incidentally in the course of commercial fishing activities, provided any such event is reported to the Government. Fishers are liable for prosecution if they fail to report the incident according to legal requirements.
Returning fish to sea illegally could be deemed a serious offence under New Zealand law, resulting in penalties from up to five years' imprisonment, fines up to $500,000 and forfeiture of all equipment including vessels, fishing gear and forfeiture of quota shares.
Information verification procedures
All content generated on this page is referenced from the OpenSeas Section Detail Report (downloadable above).

The OpenSeas report was prepared by a technical expert, with demonstrable knowledge and experience in the topic at hand. An internal fit-for-purpose review was conducted by the OpenSeas Programme Director, which may have included external scientific or operational expertise. An external scope and accuracy review was conducted by the relevant regulatory agency(ies) (i.e. New Zealand Government departments).

The report author was responsible for revising the report in line with recommendations from reviews and retains final responsibility for the report content.
Section Detail Report (Seabirds and Marine Mammals) Author:
Johanna Pierre
Director, JPEC Limited
Page last updated: 3 August 2017
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