Bait lures predators
Chicken carcasses left on Omaha beach have outraged residents and conservationists.
They fear the meat will attract rats and other pests close to the predator proof fence protecting rare shorebirds which nest on the Omaha spit.
The beach is seeing heavy seafood harvesting during summer with crab fishers at the northern end using chicken carcasses to lure crabs into fishing pots.
Up to 50 people a day have been seen fishing for crabs with one commercial fisher setting 24 pots close to the shore.
The alarm was raised by a resident at the northern end who says she found 12 chicken carcasses scattered around the rubbish bin near the northern-most walkway one day, and six more another day.
Health concerns have been raised over raw chicken being left on the beach and in cages in the water close to where children are playing and swimming.
Volunteers are also worried about the potential for the carcasses to attract pests to the shorebird nursery they care for.
While the fence has been successful, cats breeching the ends have been a problem.
The shorebird breeding season is well underway, so with adults, eggs and chicks behind the fence the carcasses are of real concern, Omaha Shorebird Protection Trust co-chairman Dr Roger Grace says.
"I understand that crab fishing is a seasonal activity - the crabs are more prevalent at this time of year - so the activity may die down naturally," he says. "But it has been increasing in intensity over the past few years and has reached a problem proportion because of the loss or discard of baits."
They will attract more pests like rats, stoats and cats but also black backed seagulls which will predate the nursery, he says.
"Fishermen have been going to this area for years and occasional bait left lying around is a problem as it attracts not only land-based vermin such as rats and stoats but also airborne predators such as black backed gulls - known to take dotterel chicks," he says.
" Unfortunately [crab fishing ] has reached a scale where it may be undermining the conservation efforts focused on the endangered shore birds."
Up to 50 crabs daily per person can be taken under fisheries regulations.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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