One of our roles is to limit or reduce the impacts of fishing activity on seabirds. Find out what we do, the law and regulations in force, our plans, and how fishers can help.

How we protect seabirds

Our work to help avoid, remedy, or mitigate the impacts on seabirds from fishing activity includes:

  • regulating certain fishing methods
  • helping fishers to prevent seabirds getting caught in gear
  • monitoring commercial fishing with on-board observers and cameras
  • working with international and local organisations
  • researching seabirds and fishing activity.

National Plan of Action – Seabirds

New Zealand is known as the seabird capital of the world – more species of seabirds breed in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world. Fisheries New Zealand wants:

  • seabirds to thrive in New Zealand waters without pressure or death from fishing-related activities
  • New Zealand fishers to avoid or help reduce seabird captures
  • New Zealand fisheries to be recognised globally as seabird-friendly.

Our first National Plan of Action for seabirds was released in 2004, and we released a second version in 2013. Broadly, National Plans of Action for seabirds (NPOA-Seabirds) set out our commitment to reducing the risk that fishing poses to seabirds. They set out how we’re going to reduce seabird captures as well as how we’re going to undertake monitoring to check we’re on the right track.

National Plan of Action for seabirds (2013) [PDF, 2.1 MB]

Draft National Plan of Action for seabirds 2020

Until the end of January 2020, we’re consulting on an updated NPOA-Seabirds.

 Have your say: National Plan of Action – Seabirds 2020

Rather than having one large document, we’ve decided to split the updated NPOA into two documents; a draft NPOA-Seabirds 2020 and a draft NPOA-Seabirds 2020 supporting document.

The draft NPOA-Seabirds 2020, which we’re seeking your feedback on, is more high level and sets out the vision, goals and objectives together with the performance measures that will be used to monitor progress towards achieving the objectives.

The draft NPOA-Seabirds 2020 supporting document provides background to the NPOA itself. It provides additional details on several aspects of the draft NPOA including the approach to implementation.

We’ve also compiled an Implementation Plan that summarises the work that will be undertaken during the next five years that contributes to achieving the objectives of the NPOA. This Plan will be updated annually.

In 2017, Fisheries New Zealand and the Department of Conservation began a review of the NPOA-Seabirds 2013. We’ve compiled a review document that summarises achievements, problems, lessons learnt, and recommendations from the NPOA-Seabirds 2013.

NPOA-Seabirds 2013 review document [PDF, 2.4 MB]

Mitigation Standards

One of the recommendations from the review was that guidance and defined standards of best practice mitigation needed to be in place before the next Plan was implemented. Based on this recommendation, we’ve written six Mitigation Standards. We also have a draft version of a seventh, which we intend to review soon.

Mitigation Standards relate to specific commercial fishing methods and set out what is required of effective mitigation practices for those methods.

Laws and regulations help protect seabirds

Almost all seabirds in New Zealand are protected species. The Wildlife Act 1953 and the Fisheries Act 1996 contain regulations that reduce the danger of fishing for these birds. New Zealand also follows international obligations around seabirds and fishing.

Fishing gear regulations

Fishing gear used by vessels poses one of the biggest threat to seabirds. They're attracted to the bait and caught fish, and the gear involved can injure, capture or kill them. In New Zealand, there are regulations around using certain types of gear.

Bottom longline - NZ Legislation website
Surface longline - NZ Legislation website
Trawl [PDF, 585 KB]

Protected Species Risk Management Plans

Protected species risk management plans (PSRMPs) are developed on a vessel-specific basis. They set out the actions a vessel’s skipper and crew will take to reduce the risk posed to seabirds (and other protected species) by the vessel’s operations.  To date, PSRMPs, or related documents, have been developed for all vessels in the following fleets:

  • Trawl vessels greater than 28 metres in length
  • Scampi trawl vessels less than 28 metres in length
  • Surface longliners

Read about PSRMPs [PDF, 3.1 MB]

The NPOA-Seabirds 2020 has an objective for all vessels that pose a risk to seabirds and other protected species to have a PSRMP. They have been developed for some vessels in the inshore trawl, bottom longline, set net and Danish seine fleet. The intention is that in the future, all vessels in these fleets will have a PSRMP

Seabird liaison officers

Seabird liaison officers communicate with commercial fishers to:

  • answer their questions on seabirds
  • plan ways to reduce accidental capture
  • increase the contact between Fisheries New Zealand and industry, to provide opportunities to collaborate on any seabird issues.

The role of research

We collect information about seabird interactions with fisheries in a database. This helps us understand what is endangering seabirds, and how best to respond. The data is made available to the public through Dragonfly Data Science. 

The Aquatic Environment and Biodiversity Annual Review (AEBAR) provides a summary of capture information and resulting analyses.

Working with external organisations

We promote policies and research within international conservation groups, like the:

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have any questions about the information on this page, email

Last reviewed: