WED, AUG 21
Forest and Bird is calling for urgent action to better protect the endangered yellow-eyed penguin from fishing threats.
The conservation group claims the survival of the population "depends on what is essentially a guessing game".
That’s because in the 2017/2018 data period there were three reported incidents, but an observer rate of just 10.4 per cent, Forest and Bird says.
It therefore estimates 30 hoiho, or yellow-eyed penguins, died in the data period, due to set nets.
The incidents occurred in the East Coast South Island fishery and the Southland to Fiordland fishery.
The Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust agrees with Forest and Bird that set nets pose a risk but believes the number of hoiho killed as a result would have been less than 30.
It says the Aquatic Environment and Biodiversity Annual review for 2017 estimated 17 birds would have died.
The trust said set nets are just one of the many threats facing the species, with starvation a particular concern this year.
"With only 10 per cent observer coverage in these fisheries we can never know the full picture of what is happening at sea. The survival of our mainland hoiho population depends on what is essentially a guessing game," says Forest and Bird’s chief executive Kevin Hague.
"Government proposals to create marine reserves and protected areas on the South Island’s east coast and a proposed new threat management strategy are positive steps but leave the threat to penguins from set net fishing wide open," he says.
A draft Hoiho Threat Management Strategy and accompanying action plan, currently open for consultation, don’t propose any concrete steps to protect the mainland population of hoiho from fishing threats, Mr Hague says.