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.

We released a revised National Plan of Action for seabirds in 2013. The plan detailed how we're trying to reduce the incidental catch of seabirds in our fisheries. It also recognises New Zealand's unique place in the world for these birds.

Broadly, the plan seeks to:

  • raise awareness of the problem
  • ensure fishing methods that reduce seabird captures are used 
  • reduce capture rates to negligible levels.

We're reviewing the National Plan of Action and hope to finalise this in 2018.

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

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]

Vessel management plans

On boats longer than 28m, Fisheries New Zealand and industry encourage fishers to follow vessel management plans, which explain how they should handle seabird interactions. These plans are in place on:

  • all boats using the surface longline fishing method
  • boats using the bottom longline fishing method in Fisheries Management Area 1 (on the north-east coast of the North Island)
  • boats longer than 28m.

Read about vessel management plans [PDF, 1.6 MB]

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: