Mission on the High Sea's

Chinese fishing master with the Southern Seabird Solutions 'Catch Fish Not Seabirds' T-shirt given to him by MPI Fisheries Officers during Operation Nasse. Photo: MPI

Operation Nasse puts seabird mitigation on the radar


A team of Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Fisheries Officers led by Anna Willison has recently returned from the Pacific High Seas north of New Zealand after boarding 37 Chinese and Japanese flagged tuna boats to collect catch effort and fishing activities information - including inspection of seabird mitigation devices.

Operation Nasse provided an opportunity for Southern Seabird Solutions and MPI to work together and develop an on-board resource about fishing around seabirds and ensure seabird mitigation devices were a mandatory part of vessel inspections.  The resource included a card showing appropriate mitigation devices and basic information about seabirds.  The Officers also gave each fishing master a t-shirt designed to raise the profile of fishing safely around seabirds on-board each vessel.  

Prior to leaving the Country, Anna was one of several Officers who attended a pre-operation training session on seabirds and seabird mitigation.  'We breed 'em, you feed 'em' was the tag line to the presentation given by Cam Speedy of Southern Seabird Solutions Trust as he explained how important NZ was as a breeding ground for a third of the worlds seabird species. 

Once at sea Anna explained that 'each day the boarding party had a briefing on the day’s vessels of interest, then “away starboard sea boat” command was given, and the boarding party was lowered off the ship in the RHIB - soon to be speeding across the open ocean to the vessel of interest.  Often it was a white-knuckle ride, and a “heart-in-mouth” embarkation onto the fishing boat.  Then the work began…..'.

The High Seas include pockets of the Pacific Ocean that are outside of neighbouring countries 200nm Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).  Those areas of ocean do not belong to any particular country, but they closely border New Zealand, Australia and the other Pacific Island nations such as Fiji, Samoa, French Polynesia, Tonga and New Caledonia.  Significant fishing effort occurs across the High Seas and it is an important feeding ground for many of NZs seabirds.  

This project has been a very positive first step in raising the profile of fishing safely around seabirds with international crews.