Whitianga – hub of seabird-smart fishers

The workshops are a great way to get up-to-date information on mitigation and swap ideas to improve it. Image showing setting of tori line drag floats.

Professional charter skippers coming to workshops can use the information to benefit their clients.

All Whitianga longline fishers are now trained in seabird smart fishing practices, after the Southern Seabird Solutions Trust held a second training workshop in Whitianga this month.


“Local commercial fishermen are already aware of the need to keep seabirds safe from harm while they’re out on the water, so it was a good chance to share their knowledge of what works and also get the most up-to-date information about seabirds.” Andrew Oliver of Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd.

Rongomai Brightwell, from Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd said “I found it really informative and it was well presented.” Participants were from commercial and professional recreational vessels. “As a collective group of skippers and deckhands, there was a really positive attitude and a better understanding of how to keep birds away from our fishing boats.”

Originally these workshops were designed for commercial fishers, but there is real benefit to professional charter operators coming along too.   

Cam Speedy, workshop facilitator, said “Peak fishing season for charter operators is from October through March when there are large numbers of hungry seabirds around feeding chicks. Lots of anglers want to know about the seabirds and how to use them to spot fish. Charter skippers who have been to workshops learn heaps about local seabird species and how to fish around them safely, so can use this knowledge with their clients. They can also market themselves as being more environmentally friendly – which is good for business.”   

Some of the fishers who attend Seabird Smart workshops are also getting out to Great Barrier Island to work with leading seabird scientist Biz bell at the black petrel colony.

Rongomai visited the site earlier this year and said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “It was amazing to see how well the birds are doing on the island raising their chicks. I personally believe in this project, and now have a much greater appreciation of the seabirds we share our waters with.”

Local charter operator Anne Ellwood also worked with Ms Bell for a week last April. 

Janice Molloy from Southern Seabird Solutions says “Whitianga is becoming a hub for professional ‘Seabird Smart' fishers and we’re really excited to be working with them to make a difference to seabird conservation out on the water.”

The Whitianga workshop, which was funded by Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd, the Ministry for Primary Industries, and the Department of Conservation. Click here for more information about workshops or contact Kirsten@southernseabirds.org

Training workshops are supported by the Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries and the local fishing company or association in each port. Commercial fishers attending the Whitianga workshop were supported by the largest Maori-owned fishing company in New Zealand: