Commercial fisher recognised for seabird smart invention

Published: 16 October 2019

The winner of this year’s Seabird Smart Awards began his quest to invent a fishing technique that keeps seabirds safe from fishing hooks over twenty years ago. Dave Kellian, a fisher based out of Leigh, spent many hours in his shed building a prototype device to release baited hooks ten metres underwater, out of the reach of seabirds. Fast forward 20 years, the device that Dave envisaged now exists, and is on the cusp of final performance testing on a NZ longline vessel.

The Seabird Smart Awards, an initiative of the Southern Seabird Solutions Trust, aims to recognise commercial and recreational fishers who have shown outstanding leadership and commitment to looking after New Zealand seabirds.

As well as his seabird saving invention, Dave was an early adopter of line weighting in his fleet, and has advocated the benefits of line weighting for seabirds for many years. He has also acted as an champion for New Zealand seabirds internationally, working with fishermen in Peru, South Africa and French Polynesia. He was an MFE Green Ribbon Award winner for his efforts in 2004.  

The main award winner, and two special recognition awards were announced by the Minister of Fisheries Hon Stuart Nash  and the Minister of Conservation, Hon Eugenie Sage, at a reception at Te Papa this evening. 

Winner Dave Kellian and the Right Honourable Eugenie Sage, Minister of Conservation

“All of the nominees for these awards are environmental champions.  Each has contributed on and off the water to reinforce the importance of seabird-smart fishing practices. Their passion and actions have positively affected the attitudes and behaviour of others.  We want to recognise them and thank them for their vision and their work,” said Bill Mansfield, Chair of Southern Seabird Solutions Trust.

A special recognition award was given to Scott and Sue Tindall of Auckland, who have been spreading the seabird- smart message amongst recreational fishers, through trade shows, fishing contests and club nights.

A special recognition award was also given to Olaf Nilsen, a commercial set net fisher working out of the port of Bluff. Olaf helped spearhead the 4 nautical mile ban on set netting around Whenua Hou to reduce the risk to yellow-eyed penguins breeding on the island. He has also eradicated pests off his family titi/mutton-bird island, and helped reintroduce snipe.

“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.

The Seabird Smart Awards were established in 2005  by the Southern Seabird Solutions Trust, a charitable organisation whose Patron is HRH, the Prince of Wales.  The awards are held every second year.  This year the awards were supported and sponsored by the Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries, Seafood NZ, Te Ohu Kaimoana, WWF-NZ, Sealord, Deepwater Group, Sanford, Moana New Zealand, Talley’s, Fisheries Inshore NZ, Leigh Fisheries, and the Federation of Commercial Fishermen.


The Southern Seabird Solutions Trust is an alliance bringing together representatives from the seafood industry, New Zealand government, WWF-New Zealand and Te Ohu Kaimoana. Trust supporters include environmental groups, eco-tourism operators, recreational fishers, fishing gear retailers and seabird ecologists.

Key objectives of the Trust:

  • Build awareness and engagement among fishers so they understand and care about seabirds
  • Discover and share knowledge and resources that empower fishers to protect seabirds
  • Recognise and reward efforts made by fishers and the people around them
  • Cooperate with organisations outside New Zealand that can help to protect the seabirds that breed here  

Southern Seabird Solutions Trust is governed by a Board that includes representatives of the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Department of Conservation, Seafood New Zealand, WWF-New Zealand and Te Ohu Kaimoana.  His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales is the Patron of the Trust.