Fishing operators recognised for their commitment to protecting seabirds from being harmed on vessels

The winners of this year’s Seabird Smart Awards are leading the way when it comes to protecting seabirds says Bill Mansfield, the Chair of the Southern Seabird Solutions Trust.

The Seabird Smart Awards aim to recognise commercial and recreational fishers for outstanding leadership and commitment to looking after New Zealand seabirds.

The Award winners were announced by the Minister of Conservation, Maggie Barry, at a reception for the parties to the international Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels at Te Papa this evening.

“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 Mansfield.

Altair Fishing Limited took home the trophy for their commitment to seabird mitigation across their five West Coast tuna vessels.

“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,” said Mansfield.

A special award was established this year to recognise a great innovator.

“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. These ideas will have application on many trawl vessels in the fleet.

“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 are run by the Southern Seabird Solutions Trust, a charity organisation with royal patron, His Royal Highness, 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, Sealord, Deepwater Group, Sanford, Moana New Zealand, and the Federation of Commercial Fishermen.


Winner of the 2017 Seabird Smart Awards - Altair Fishing Limited

Fishing with conservation in mind is just part of the right to be out there says company director, Diane Brooks. Diane is passionate about mitigating the risks to seabirds associated with Altair Fishing’s five West Coast based vessels.

The company runs a fleet of surface long line boats and has been at the forefront of seabird mitigation work for many years. All of the vessels 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. The Seabird Smart trophy was accepted by skipper Troy Harper. Troy started fishing with Diane’s co-director, Stu Morrison when he was just 15 years old. Troy has become an enthusiastic ambassador for seabirds and an authority on well tested and new mitigation measures. The trio are responsible for maximising the uptake of best practice mitigation measures across the fleet.


This year, in addition to the main award, the Southern Seabird Solutions Trust presented a Special Innovation award.

Special Innovation Award – Gavin Heineman

Gavin runs a family owned bottom trawl vessel operating out of Carey’s Bay on the East Coast of the South Island. A trained engineer with a keen eye for seabird behaviour, Gavin has been instrumental in the design and trial of a variety of seabird mitigation tools. He reckons he’d build everything himself too, but then he’d have no time to fish.

Gavin, with support from his father Ate, set himself the challenge of preventing seabirds from striking the cables used to drag and manage the trawl net. Cable strike is a problem shared by all trawl fishers. Gavin tries to keep seabirds away from the strike zone on his vessel by setting the cables low and wide, and by releasing vessel discards below the rear deck near the propeller. A member of the Port Chalmers Fishermen’s Association, Gavin is always happy to share his experience with seabirds and ways to keep them safe.


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 our seabirds

Southern Seabird Solutions Trust is governed by 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 Trust patron.

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