This website provides access to data collected by New Zealand Government fisheries observers, recording the number of seabirds around fishing vessels. These are technical data, suitable for studies of seabird distribution.

Seabirds following a trawler

Seabirds following a fishing trawler, Kaikoura, New Zealand.

New Zealand is a global centre of seabird diversity, with over 80 species breeding either on the mainland or on offshore islands. Seabirds are caught during both commercial and recreational fishing, and for some species these fatalities may threaten the viability of the populations.

Little is known about the distribution of seabirds in New Zealand waters. Since 2004, government fisheries observers have carried out regular counts of the numbers of seabirds around fishing vessels. These data will allow a greater understanding of the interactions between seabirds and fishing vessels, which in turn will help in the management of fishing to reduce seabird bycatch.

Under the current protocol, counts are made of birds that are within 100 m of the vessel, and of those that are further away. The birds are identified as accurately as possible; however, observers' experiences and skills vary, and collecting seabird count data is not their primary task. Because of this variability, and because of the inherent difficulty in accurately counting birds behind fishing vessels, the data should be used cautiously. For further information, a report is available that describes data collected between 2004 and 2009.

The collection of data is coordinated by the Department of Conservation. The data were entered from paper forms and groomed by Dragonfly Science.

Explore the data