Fishing alongside rare black petrel - DVD

Wildlife biologist Cam Speedy walks through his favourite sika deer hunting grounds to explore old seabird territory...

09.02.2014

The latest Southern Seabird Solutions video walks through historic seabird country 60km inland in the New Zealand Ahimanawa Ranges, then heads to Aotea/Great Barrier Island with a group of inshore commercial fishers who are determined to understand and look after the special seabirds of the Hauraki Gulf.

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In 2012 Whitianga longline fishermen Adam Clow, skipper of the Southern Cross and Wayne Dreadon, skipper of the Sir Allan McNab, and Leigh-based Gavin Perry, skipper of the Carolyn Marie, joined Biz Bell, seabird scientist, on top of Hikarimata/Mt Hobson to help band rare black petrels before they fledged.

“Five minutes after meeting Biz I was up to my armpit in a black petrel burrow, carefully pulling a bird out then holding it while she banded it.” Gavin says.

“They’re smart birds and have an extraordinary homing sense. The path they use is like a bird highway, at night, as black petrels from hundreds of burrows waddle to the rock they take-off from. After the chicks have left for South America the parent birds fly there, too, and, the following spring, they fly back to their burrows and meet the same old partner.”

Burrows like these used to exist throughout the forests of the central North Island and tell a tale of when millions of seabirds clattered throughout our forests feeding their chicks and fertilising the landscape. Cam Speedy, wildlife biologist and Seabird Smart Trainer, recently led a camera crew 60km inland to the Taupo high country to view ancient seabird burrows.

“Imagine thousand of seabirds crashing through the canopy loaded with fish to feed their chicks.  The ecology of these forests was once fuelled by seabirds - bringing nitrogen, phosphorus and other trace elements to the soil. But this cycle – the link between the ocean and the mountains – has been broken. Land based predators, particularly stoats, have wiped seabirds out of these forests.”

Most of our seabirds are now restricted to offshore islands and numbers of seabirds have declined from billions to millions, and in the case of black petrel to thousands.

Janice Molloy Southern Seabird Solutions Trust Convenor says that looking after our remaining colonies of seabirds needs a joint effort so that we can reduce both land and sea-based threats.

“Government agencies, community groups, scientists and fishers all have a part to play and we all need to support them. Check out the new video – it’s a great story and we hope it will help motivate others to do their bit to care for our precious seabirds – after all, it’s the kiwi thing to do!”