Cruise ships protecting seabirds

The Dawn Princess and Emerald Princess in Tauranga. Photo: Rosalie Liddle Crawford.

Bright lights on cruise ships pose a risk to seabirds flying at night in the Hauraki Gulf, so the Department of Conservation is working with the international cruise industry to help keep the birds safe.

DOC Principal Science Advisor Graeme Taylor says the bright lights attract the seabirds.

“They can be momentarily blinded causing them to fly into a cruise ship and end up lying stunned on the deck.”

DOC is working with the NZ Cruise Ship Association and Cruise Lines International Association to reduce the amount of light from cruise ships and advise crews on what to do when dazzled birds land on their ships.

“Bright lights on cruise ships is an issue in the Hauraki Gulf because we have a high number of seabird species that fly at night,” says Graeme Taylor.

“This includes mature seabirds foraging for food and young birds departing from their breeding colonies on their first trip to sea.”

“These seabirds have better night vision than humans. But this means they’re more likely to be dazzled by a cruise ship’s lights, especially on foggy overcast nights with no moonlight. Young seabirds are most at risk of crash landing on a ship at night.”

To keep the seabirds and passengers safe, DOC has developed an advice sheet for crews on cruise ships.

“We’re providing practical advice on ways to reduce the amount of light shining out to sea from cruise ships and how to manage dazzled birds that land on the ships,” says Graeme.

NZ Cruise Association Chief Executive Kevin O’Sullivan says advice sheets have been distributed to cruise ships sailing into New Zealand ports.

“We’re asking environmental officers on large cruise ships and senior officers on smaller ships to manage the issue of safeguarding the night flying seabirds.

“The feedback we’ve had has been very positive. Officers and crew on cruise ships share their workspace, the ocean, with seabirds and have a genuine commitment to keeping them safe.

“Preventing dazzled seabirds from crash landing on their decks also helps keep their passengers safe,” says Kevin.

Cruise Lines International Association Managing Director Australasia Joel Katz says the protection of seabirds and other wildlife was an important priority for cruise lines.

"The cruise industry has a strong interest in safeguarding the oceans, wildlife and natural environment that our guests come to enjoy, and the advice of the DOC will be of great assistance to cruise lines as they work to minimise risks for New Zealand’s seabirds."

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1 Comment

All ships need to manage seabirds

Posted on 24-01-2019 13:53 | By Catherine Stewart

A year ago I cruised on Princess cruises around New Zealand. I was up early each morning and observed stunned, injured or dead sea birds (petrels) on the back deck of the cruise ship at most ports of call. I wrote a letter to the Captain to voice my concerns. When I met the Captain his comment to me was "what is more important people or birds?" There is an opportunity to better manage sea birds if the cruise ships are willing to acknowledge the issue and do something about it. I have seen sea birds injured or dead on other cruise ships around New Zealand as well. Protocols with cargo ships should also be looked at. Catherine Stewart

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