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SEABIRDS - NATURE'S FISH FINDERS

LegaSea appreciates the support of the Southern Seabird Solutions Trust in providing this information so we can fish smarter and take better care of our seabirds.
southern seabird solutions trust

Tune in and take care

Seabirds are good indicators of what's below the surface - which makes them an angler's best friend. New Zealand has more types of seabirds breeding here than anywhere else in the world and some of them are rarer than our kiwi.

Seabirds can get tangled in fishing line and nets or caught on hooks.   

Small changes in the way we all fish can make a big difference to seabird survival – you might catch more fish too! 

 
Take care when fishing Do you have another idea?
Be fish tidy Seabird smart tactics
Fish fast If you catch a seabird - treat it with care
Burley below the birds How to de-hook a bird
Deter birds from your gear What to do if a bird has swallowed your hook?
Seabird identification guide  
   

Fishing icons

Australasian gannet

Gannets circling high over a small area indicate they are waiting for predators to push schooling bait fish like mackerel, herring and pilchards to the surface. 

Shallow dives can indicate piper or saury, a steeper dive can mean pilchards or anchovies.  

Gannets can dive at 145 kilometres per hour to about 15 metres below the surface. 

They have inflatable air sacs on their neck to absorb the impact of the dive.  

Image credit: Dennis Buurman

Most of the world's breeding population lives in NZ. 
 

Image credit: Neil Fitzgerald

Our other 'all blacks' - Black petrel

Black petrels prefer light-emitting squid, but will also feed on small fish, truncates and crustaceans.

They can be a sign of marlin in summer. 

Black petrel fish day and night.  They most often fish to around 6 metres below the surface but can dive much deeper. 

Like many seabirds, black petrel are ‘long haul’ flyers that can navigate to fishing grounds on the other side of the world and back to their burrow in NZ, without a GPS!

Little Barrier and Great Barrier and are the home to the world’s entire breeding population and there are only about 2500 pairs left. 
 

Find out what other seabirds can tell us - see Nature's fish finders - what are they telling us?

Or visit Southern Seabirds to find out more.

 

Take care

New Zealand has more types of seabirds breeding here than anywhere else in the world and some of them are rarer than our kiwi.

Seabirds can get tangled in fishing line and nets or caught on hooks.  If a breeding adult is injured or killed its chick will die of starvation. 

Small changes in the way we all fish can make a big difference to seabird survival – you might catch more fish too! 

Fish tidy

Seabirds are hunting for food - keep unused bait and scraps in covered bins until you’ve finished fishing.

Gut and fillet your catch once your hooks are out of the water.  

Never feed seabirds while you are fishing - it only encourages them to hang about, get in your way when fishing and steal your baits.

 

Fish fast

Sink your bait fast and well below the surface, particularly when there are lots of seabirds in the area.

Take particular care around boil-ups or ‘meatballs’. 

A moving bait is very attractive to a hungry seabird.

Seabirds move fast - if birds are nearby, keep a keen watch when setting and retrieving your fishing gear.

More time spent with a seabird means less fishing time.

 

 

Burley well below the birds

Sink burley containers deep – further from the birds, closer to the fish!

 

 

Deter birds from your gear

Create a ‘safe zone’ so you can get your gear up and down. 

Some fishers tie streamers to a spare rod or outrigger with a half filled plastic milk bottle at the end to bounce over the water, to distract the birds.

Others throw a bucket of water towards birds to shoo them away from hooks.  

A deck hose sprayed off the back of the transom is a good deterrent too.

 

   

Do you have another idea?

For more ideas see www.southernseabirds.org

Please email info@southernseabirds.org if you have found other ways of creating a safe zone around your boat to reduce the risk of catching seabirds.     

 

Try these seabird smart guidelines...

  • Clean the decks and put any scraps or bait in bins – seabirds sense of smell is extraordinary.
  • Use a rig with heavy sinkers rather than casting light gear or surface fishing.
  • Change the size or type of your bait – soft baits are less attractive, although we are unsure about the really smelly ones.
  • Fish at night or early morning – there are less birds around.
  • Move further away from seabird colonies and feeding paths - particularly if you are set netting
  • Take a break or move to another spot.

These guidelines were developed by Southern Seabird Solutions with the technical knowledge and goodwill of charter skippers and anglers.   

 

If you do catch a seabird - treat it with care

Just like an undersized (or catch and release) fish - the way you treat a hooked seabird can make all the difference to its survival.

After the Rena oil disaster of the Bay of Plenty, several seabirds were found dead that were un-oiled but had injuries from recreational fishing gear.  

The gear you use to release a seabird is very similar to the gear you’d use to release a fish – it’s useful to have it with you all the time you are fishing. 

Check out the images below or download a copy of the full Safe seabird release guidelines.

How to de-hook a bird

Wrap the bird in a towel and cover its eyes if possible.

Hold feet firmly.

Hold large birds beak shut but don’t cover the nostrils or twist the beak.

Cut the fishing line from the hook.

Use pliers to flatten bard or cut hook with small bolt cutters.

Pull hook out.

What to do if a bird has swallowed a hook

Wrap the bird in a towel and cover its eyes if possible.

Hold feet firmly.

Hold large birds beak shut but don’t cover the nostrils or twist the beak.

If hook is swallowed, cut the line as close to entry as possible.

Fishing line left dangling from the bird can tangle on plants, rocks or other birds.

Seabirds and fishing go together – as kiwi anglers we are the ones who can make a difference out on the water. 

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birds are natures fish finders
 
 
Seabird ID Guide
seabird ID guide
Download the seabird ID guide so you can recognise common birds at sea