Sealord skipper and crew win national award for seabird protection
This article by Vanessa Phillips was published on stuff.co.nz on 31 March 2022
A Nelson-based Sealord deep sea skipper and his crew have been recognised for their efforts to look after New Zealand seabirds, winning a national award.
Jesse Crasborn and the crew of the fishing vessel Rehua received the Innovation Award at the Seabird Smart Awards during an online ceremony on Wednesday night, with Minister for Oceans and Fisheries David Parker and Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan presenting awards.
Crasborn and his team received the award for outstanding leadership in their commitment to trialling new techniques to limit seabirds from becoming caught in deep water trawl nets.
“Jesse has engaged his crew in the trials and their commitment is a testament to Jesse’s leadership,” said the Southern Seabird Trust, which holds the Seabird Smart Awards. The awards recognise commercial and recreational fishers who show outstanding leadership and commitment to looking after New Zealand seabirds.
Crasborn said the award was an honour for himself and his crew. As well as the trialling of new techniques, a big part of it was getting everyone in the fishing industry on board with what they were trying to achieve.
“It’s about that culture we’re trying to change and getting everyone focussed and trying to minimise interactions (with seabirds) and damage from the industry,” he said.
In his 21 years as a fisherman – five of which have been skipper of the Rehua – he has seen a large shift in the industry’s efforts towards protecting seabirds and the environment.
During the past three years Crasborn has been involved with a group of industry and environmental representatives, meeting several times each year with them in his free time to come up with new ideas, devices and techniques to try and prevent seabirds interacting with vessels and being caught up in fishing nets.
Various new devices and techniques had been trialled on the Rehua over the past few years, including water sprays, deterrents on the nets, dyes, and sounds to scare the birds away, he said.
“Everyone has a passion for the ocean and environment and looking after it at the end of the day, so it's there for future generations.”
Sealord resource scientist Charles Heaphy nominated Crasborn for the award.
“Since we joined up with Southern Seabirds, environmental groups and others on this focused seabird mitigation project three years ago, trialling new and innovative ways to reduce seabird net captures, Jesse has been fantastic,” Heaphy said.
“He comes along to all the meetings and workshops in his own time and is really dedicated to the process. A lot of this is about testing what doesn’t work to find out what may work, and Jesse’s advice and knowledge as a skipper has been essential.
“There is no single solution for eliminating seabird captures but there are a range of measures that can be successfully deployed depending on the vessel, the location and the bird species. Jesse and his crew have done an excellent job testing and innovating,” Heaphy said.