Fishermen swap seaboots for tramping boots

Commercial fishermen from Westport and Greymouth visited the Westland petrel colony this month. Image: B Stuart-Monteath

Greymouth and Westport fishers recently headed inland in search of Westland petrel.

27.11.2016

Westland petrels only breed on the West Coast. They mate for life and each year return to their burrow on the coastal ranges near Punakaiki. They lay one egg and both parents care for the chick. At this time of year the young birds are fully grown. Over the next few weeks they begin to leave their burrows and fly out to sea for the first time.

Westland petrels regularly follow fishing boats looking for bait or offal, and have been recorded caught on fishing hooks and in trawl nets. Recently commercial fishers from Westport and Greymouth tramped into the Westland petrel colony to visit the birds on-land.

The trip was hosted by the Westland Petrel Conservation Trust.  "After hearing about the success of the seabird colony visits arranged for Hauraki Gulf fishermen by Southern Seabird Solutions Trust, I thought it would be great to organise a trip on the West Coast for our local guys", said  Punakaiki local and marine scientist Sunkita Howard. 

Adam Duff, Westfleet commercial fisherman said that seeing the birds in their breeding environment was very different to seeing them at sea. Bruce Stuart-Menteath, who guided the tour, said it was great to see interest in the Westland petrel from people involved in the fishing industry. “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.”

Richard Wells, Fisheries Advisor for the Deepwater Group and member of the Southern Seabird Solutions Trust management team said “We have been working with fishermen operating on the West Coast to reduce the risks from fishing to seabirds. 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".

Check out our videos of visits to the Black petrel and Yellow-eyed Penguin colonies.