Talley's fleet boss wins seabird award
Mike Black said following his father around the Southland coast to pick up beach rubbish gave him his first lessons in marine conservation.
"Tracker" Black has trudged the beaches for at least 40 years, he said, picking up floats, rope and other debris, teaching his children that conservation and fishing went hand in hand.
Now his son has been named joint winner of the 2015 Seabird Smart award, announced at Parliament by Conservation Minister Maggie Barry.
The awards are presented once every two years by the Southern Seabirds Solutions Trust, which partners with the Department of Conservation and Ministry for Primary Industries to advocate for better protection of seabirds, and offers training to fishing boat crews.
Barry said New Zealand was home to more than a third of the world's seabird species and 35 per cent were under threat.
It was encouraging to see fishing industry staff get recognition for going "beyond the call" to mitigate bycatch and raise awareness of the issue, she said.
As depot supervisor for Talley's in Bluff, Black manages 20 vessels fishing from Moeraki to Jackson Bay.
"I won't say I'm the ultimate conservationist - this is just something that's come on in later years," Black said.
Seeing seabirds trapped in plastic beer can rings or bits of net had made him "start to think".
"You can't treat the environment like that. You have to give what you expect to get back, and that's what the fishing industry's looking at these days."
His award was in recognition of his role in getting seabird management plans in place for the inshore fleet, and also for his involvement in beach clean-ups and good rubbish management on fishing boats.
He said all the trawlermen had been receptive to the seabird management plans and to using clip-on devices, some of which they developed themselves, to stop birds getting dragged under by trawl wires or "warps", or to scare them away from the danger.
As well as gulls the inshore fleet in the deep south encountered mollymawks and other albatross, sooty shearwaters, petrels, shags and "everything you'd expect to find in the Southern Ocean", Black said.
"It's really interesting when you get that close to wildlife."
He is sharing the award trophy with North Island company Leigh Fisheries operations manager Tom Searle, who has it for the first year.
"We've agreed that he'll bring it down when it's my turn," Black said.