Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Dumped bait threat to birds

Omaha residents angry as chicken carcasses used by crab fishers put rare species at risk.

Chicken carcasses left at popular Omaha Beach by crab fishers are raising the predator risk for a nearby bird sanctuary. Photo / APN
Chicken carcasses left at popular Omaha Beach by crab fishers are raising the predator risk for a nearby bird sanctuary. Photo / APN

Crab fishers leaving a beach strewn with chicken carcasses have outraged residents and conservationists at Omaha.

A raw whole chicken is the favoured bait for trapping paddle crabs which are plentiful over summer in the shallows of the beach, 16km from Warkworth, in northeast Auckland.

However, more than 50 people have been seen in one day on the northern end of the beach setting pots, including a commercial gatherer who set 24 pots close to the shore.

The northern end includes a sandspit sanctuary for endangered birds - New Zealand dotterels and oystercatchers.

"Unfortunately the crab fishing season coincides with the birds' breeding season, and people disturbance and predators are the major problems facing the breeding birds and their chicks," said marine biologist Dr Roger Grace, a member of the Omaha Shore Bird Protection Trust.

"The discarding or loss of chicken carcasses used as crab bait is an avoidable additional problem which increases the predation risk for the birds.

It attracts land-based vermin such as rats and stoats and black backed gulls which are also known to take dotterel chicks.

"If the behaviour of the fishermen could be modified so they do not leave chicken carcasses lying around to attract predators, that could solve part of the problem."

Dr Grace said a huge amount of community and Auckland Council effort and volunteer hours were put into a predator fence and pest control in the sanctuary.

A kaumatua of Ngati Manuhiri, Mook Hohneck, said the chicken was offal.

"I do not support any offal being left on the shore - it is a poor outcome for the community and the environment.

"If it were fish - something out of the sea - I wouldn't have an opinion on it."

Omaha Beach Community president Graham Painter said the problem of discarded chicken had escalated over the holiday period.

Fishers were bundling the carcasses up in netting and casting them out on lines with a surf rod. Once the crabs were entangled in the nylon web they were reeled in.

Leaving carcasses on the beach was also a breach of the council's public places bylaw.
Leaving carcasses on the beach was also a breach of the council's public places bylaw.

"No one wants raw offal left on the public beach and the community is taking it up with the council. Surely there is a bylaw against it."

Auckland Council bylaws and compliance manager Max Wilde said leaving chicken carcasses on the beach was littering under the Litter Act and the council could issue an instant fine.

Leaving carcasses on the beach was also a breach of the council's public places bylaw, which may result in a court fine of up to $2000.

The Fisheries Regulations say the daily limit is 50 paddle crabs per person.

- NZ Herald

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