Saving the Black Petrel

Join The Black Petrel Action Group Facebook Page

Black petrels used to breed all over the North Island but now due to habitat loss and predation breeds only on Great Barrier (the main colony) and Little Barrier Islands. They are declining steadily – only c.1000-1500 pairs in main colony in recent years, compared with 6000-7000 pairs in 1995/6 when research began. The threats to the black petrel on land now are comparatively limited and well understood. The key issue now is understanding why so many black petrels die at sea, and where. 

Unfortunately, black petrels are great divers and are killed through interaction with fishing boats – especially long liners, between November and May mainly in the waters off the north east of the north island.  Risk assessment data from the Ministry of Primary Industries has shown black petrels are the most at risk bird from fishing in NZ waters.  They frequently appear in numbers around boats and are hooked when they dive on squid baits – squid is their favourite food. They are hooked and drown.  They can also be hooked when longliners are hauling in hooks.  Bird scaring lines, hook weighting, not fishing at night, not releasing offal and waste while hauling or setting lines and minimizing deck lights at night all help.  Regulations need to be updated to reflect this.

Unfortunately there is a low level of public awareness of the plight of black petrel and bycatch by commercial fishers.  MPI has only recently acknowledged the need to develop specific actions to prevent black petrel bycatch while breeding birds are in NZ – they winter in the East Pacific. At a minimum MPI must work hard to ensure regulations are appropriate, enforced, and that fishers are educated on black petrels and how to avoid catching them. A dead breeding adult results in a dead chick since the remaining parent can’t give a chick enough food to survive – and the loss of all future chicks from that bird. Black petrels will be extinct in our lifetime if we don’t act.

Black petrel action group

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What you can do

  • Like us on facebook:  www.facebook.com/pages/Black-Petrel-Action-Group

  • Write to the Minister of Primary Industries and Minister of Conservation asking for action to protect the Black Petrel and other seabirds (see sample letter on our site) HERE

  • Contact your local board, Auckland Council  councillor and your MP and ask what they plan to do to protect the Black Petrel from bycatch.

  • Report dead black petrels to DoC on Great Barrier – take photos, record location and if possible, take it with you.  Dead birds can be frozen and analysed later.

  • Encourage any fishers you know to be responsible around seabirds, and especially black petrels, especially between December and May

  • Do remove hooks from birds (slowly and carefully bring them on board, use a towel to cover the bird, hold the beak and body firmly but gently or you’ll break them).  Do NOT leave a long trace if a hook cannot be removed – cut it off.

Relevant Links: 

Black Petrel Essentials

Black Petrel Action Group

Black Petrel Briefing Note: Ministers and Advisors