Seabird Smart Award winners announced

A fleet of West Coast surface long liners has been awarded the 2017 Seabird Smart Award.

Altair Fishing Ltd was crowned for their commitment to seabird mitigation across their five vessels.

Chair of the Southern Seabird Solutions Trust Bill Mansfield said “the vessels all use bird scaring lines, set their fishing lines at night, add weights to sink their baits quickly and dye their bait so it is less visible to the birds. Altair Fishing’s leadership has influenced the behaviour of a whole fishing fleet.”

Altair Fishing skipper Mike Smith, who accepted the award with company director Diane
Brooks, said conservation and fishing went hand in hand.

“It’s the culture that we’re in now. We want to be looking after the environment and seabirds are majestic creatures so we have to be taking care of them,” Smith said.

“It’s nice to get some recognition for the work we do.”

Seabird Smart Award winners Diane Brooks and Mike Smith, along with Minister of Conservation Maggie Barry.

The Special Innovation Award was given to Gavin Heineman, who runs a family owned bottom trawler, Echo, out of Carey’s Bay and won for his work in reducing cable strike.

Mansfield said Heineman’s idea could be applied throughout the fleet.

“Gavin Heineman has re-engineered his fishing deck so that fish discards are released away from the seabird danger zone of his trawl cables. He has also been working on a novel cone attachment that fits to the trawl cable to keep seabirds safe if they do venture near.

“New Zealand is known as the seabird capital of the world. As the breeding grounds for a third of the world’s seabird species, we have an international responsibility to ensure their long-term survival,” said Mansfield.

Heineman was unable to attend the awards as he was fishing, and his award was accepted by Southern Inshore Fisheries Management co chief executive Carol Scott.

The winners were announced by Minister of Conservation, Maggie Barry, at a reception for the parties to the International Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) at Te Papa on September 11.