Door shuts on swordfish

Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton has temporarily shut down New Zealand's emerging swordfish fishery after "unacceptable levels" of albatross deaths.

Mr Anderton said the "emergency action" had been prompted by a Fisheries Ministry staff member witnessing 51 albatrosses, seven petrels and two critically endangered leatherback turtles being caught by a single swordfish boat in the Kermadec Islands area. The turtles and 17 of the albatrosses were released alive.

Most of the birds were antipodean albatross, a vulnerable species that only bred in New Zealand waters.

"I don't want another incident like this occurring, so I am proposing immediate action under emergency provisions in the Fisheries Act."

Mr Anderton said he had closed the Kermadec fisheries to surface long-line fishing, made night setting mandatory in all New Zealand surface long-line fisheries, as well as requiring "tori lines" to ward off birds.

The measures would remain in place for three months while he decided what longer-term measures should be put in place.

The Fisheries Ministry would consult the industry over the next two days about solutions.

Feedback would then go to Mr Anderton who would make a final decision.

Swordfish were brought back into the quota management system on October 1. There are three boats known to be working in the Kermadec Islands area targeting swordfish.

- NZPA

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