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News today that some New Zealand bird species continue to struggle for survival present an economic and environmental challenge, the Green Party said.
A Department of Conservation report - released today – reassesses the conservation status of New Zealand birds to reveal both gains and losses. Overall, 19 species and sub species have improved their status but 13 have declined.
The report says bird species that have declined are mainly seabirds, and birds that use riverbeds and rough farmland. Most of the decline is due to fisheries by-catch and land-use changes such as the conversion of sheep farms to dairy production.
Green Party Conservation Spokesperson MP Metiria Turei – who has drafted a private members bill for stronger measures to protect endangered seabirds – today challenged the fishing and dairy farming industries to help threatened bird species by changing their working practices.
"Measures which protect our biodiversity also add economic value to the farming industry, particularly through improved water quality.
"Global demands for sustainably harvested fish products and for clean dairy products give our fishers and farmers a competitive advantage. Unfortunately today’s report tells the world that we are not as clean and green as we purport to be.
"Those businesses that take sustainability seriously will gain, while laggards will pay the cost in increasingly difficult economic times. Protecting our environment is an economic no-brainer," Mrs Turei said.
"It is frightening that the fishing and dairy farming industries are contributing to the decline of New Zealand bird species, but comforting to know that relatively small changes in business practice can help this sad situation."
Seabirds are attracted to fishing vessels as a source of food, but can become hooked on baited longlines and hooks, and tangled or captured in nets. Birds such as albatross take a long time to breed and produce very few chicks, making them even more vulnerable.
Fishers can avoid killing seabirds by a variety of mitigation methods such as streamer lines that deter birds from becoming entangled.
Mrs Turei has drafted a private members bill, the Marine Mammals Protection Act Amendment Bill, that will go into the next Parliamentary Ballot.
"My bill provides a legislative framework for greater protection of marine animals including seabirds and will involve working with the fishing industry on marine conservation solutions."
The increasing intensification of dairy farming has also had adverse effects on birdlife due to habitat destruction. But farmers can help by planting riverbanks, protecting the bush and wetlands on their farms, and not discharging effluent into waterways, Mrs Turei said.