WELLINGTON, April 24 (Xinhua) -- A national action plan to save New Zealand's unique seabirds from fishing nets was unveiled by the government Wednesday to a cautious welcome from conservation groups.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said seabirds were one of the world's most threatened bird groupings, and the key threat was incidental capture through fishing operations.
"New Zealand is an important breeding ground for around 80 seabird species, including albatross, petrel, penguin and shag species," Guy said in a statement.
"The plan defines objectives for the next five years to prevent, monitor and manage seabird interactions with the fishing industry. "
It included plans to ensure effective prevention methods were applied in all New Zealand fisheries and by New Zealand vessels on the high seas and to help develop new mitigation measures.
It also involved the development of new research, observation and monitoring techniques, and cooperation with other countries whose vessels interacted with seabirds, particularly those that bred in New Zealand.
Global conservation group WWF it was a good first step that would need to be implemented effectively by officials and industry to achieve real gains for vulnerable and threatened seabirds.
Eighty-six seabirds, about a quarter of the world's species, bred in the New Zealand region, of which almost half bred nowhere else, WWF New Zealand marine program manager Rebecca Bird said in a statement.
The Forest and Bird society said the latest assessment estimated that more than 15,000 seabirds died annually in commercial fishing operations inside New Zealand's exclusive economic zone alone.
Forest and Bird seabird advocate Karen Baird said it should be standard practice for bottom longliners to use weighted lines, which quickly sank beyond the reach of diving birds.
"Every one of New Zealand's 10 endemic albatross species is under severe threat from the fishing industry," Baird said in a statement.
"This will require everyone involved in the industry to start acting responsibly, and start doing what is needed. If we don't, we will lose a lot more of what makes New Zealand such a special place."