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Black Petrel Survives South American Capture Ordeal

Updated: Apr 6, 2020

Black Petrel
Back at the colony after 13 years absence. Photo credit: Ed Marshall

One of the Hauraki Gulf’s iconic black petrels caught by a boat in Ecuador in 2007, has been found alive in a breeding burrow on Great Barrier Island. Seabird scientist Biz Bell was astonished to find the bird alive. “We had presumed it had died because it had never been seen again back at the colony in the intervening 13 years”. Black petrels migrate to Ecuador when they fledge, and this survival story shows the importance of fishers on both sides of the Pacific taking measures to protect black petrels while fishing.

These young birds know exactly where they are going. Credit: Wildlife Management International Ltd

The Auckland Zoo Charitable Trust has generously supported our outreach initiative to encourage Ecuadorian fleets to adopt seabird smart fishing practices to help protect this rare Hauraki Gulf seabird. The Trust has already funded ground-breaking satellite tracking of young black petrels leaving their nest for the first time. “The tracking showed these young birds do a heroic 12000 km flight straight to Ecuador, into waters where there is intense fishing” says Penny Whiting, Chair of the Auckland Zoo Charitable Trust. “We wanted to do more to help them survive”. Fishers are more open to hearing messages from their peers, so we thought it might work to have a kiwi fisher ask his South American counterparts to join him in looking after black petrels. Adam Clow who fishes out of Whitianga and has become an absolute devotee of the birds after spending time at the colony with researchers. So we filmed him on his boat talking about his respect for black petrels and the measures he uses to reduce the risk of catching them.

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