Nelson recreational fishers urged to help keep seabirds safe

Keep a landing net and large towel on board to help handle a bird if caught, as well as pliers or small bolt cutters to remove a hook.  If you can't remove a hook, always cut off as much fishing line as possible.

A Nelson fisheries specialist who has worked with the commercial industry to reduce the risk of seabirds getting caught is encouraging recreational fishers to follow suit...


Richard Wells, a fisheries specialist with non-profit fisheries management organisation the DeepWater Group and Fisheries Inshore NZ, said there were ways of reducing the risk of snaring a seabird, and methods for safely releasing birds that are caught accidentally.

"Commercial fisheries bycatch is measured by law but the impact on birds from recreational fishing is still relatively unknown."

Wells, who fishes recreationally, grew up in the Marlborough Sounds and remembers seeing birds swooping on fish being reeled in from the wharf at French Pass. He said they learned quickly to associate people and boats with food. 

"Prevention was always better than cure, and the message to fishers is to not attract seabirds in the first place. However, this is difficult when birds become habituated to boats, particularly when trails of fish offcuts were tossed over the side.

Fishing tips for looking after seabirds:

Keep your fish off-cuts and bait in a covered container on-board until your hooks are out of the water, then discard them.

Use good-quality gear. Seabirds have become accustomed to human fishing habits, and know when to lunge on hooks so use good sinkers that sink fast.  Barbless hooks are better too, they may cause less damage to a bird that gets hooked and are easier to remove.  

Never throw plastic in the water - whether its a piece of fishing line or a sandwich wrapper – it’s a death trap to seabirds.

Carry gear on-board to release a seabird, such as a landing net to get it on board and a large towel to wrap it in which makes it much easier to handle. You also need pliers or small bolt cutters to carefully remove the hook.  

If a seabird has swallowed a hook, dont try to remove it - always cut the fishing nylon off the bird as close to the beak as possible.  Seabirds are often found every season tangled in recreational fishing line at nests or floating on the water. Most of these don't survive.

Wells said he hoped Nelson fishers would be active in helping to change the culture.

Go to more information for recreational fishers

Check out 'Gone Fishin' host Graeme Sinclair's tips about fishing around seabirds

Source: Nelson Mail, 2014

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