Do your part to protect black petrels

11 Jan 2022

Do your part to protect black petrels


Now that summer is here people are enjoying their favourite holiday spots and enjoying time on or in the water. Much like holidaymakers, a number of our protected seabirds are also taking advantage of the summer season. So if you’re fishing, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for them and understand what you can do to help protect them. 

One you might see if you are out on the water is the takoketai/black petrel. These are a nationally vulnerable seabird species and they have flown all the way back from wintering in South America to breed here on our shores. Once found throughout the North Island, the few remaining breeding colonies are now isolated to Great Barrier and Little Barrier Islands in the Hauraki Gulf, and the peaks of the Coromandel Peninsula. While they breed and raise their chicks in the gulf, the birds can also be found foraging and feeding along the east coast of the North Island, from Mahia to North Cape. 

To raise their chicks, black petrels need a good supply of food and to them, an angler’s bait or berley can look like an easy meal. Black petrels are impressive to see, but catching or tangling one is no fun for either party. Reducing your chance of catching black petrels is the best way to protect them. Here are a few helpful tips that can help you avoid these seabirds when you are fishing.

• Avoid attracting seabirds 

Seabirds are hunting for food - keep decks clean and put bait scraps and fish waste in covered bins until you finish fishing.

• Sink bait and burley 

Most seabirds fish within 6m of the surface. If seabirds are around, sink your bait and berley below 6m as fast as possible. If you are fishing “work-ups”, fish around the outside and behind the birds. Seabirds move fast, so set and retrieve your gear quickly and always watch for birds.

• Distract seabirds away from hooks 

Putting a teaspoon of tuna oil or used cooking oil on the water can keep the birds far enough away to let you get your baits down. If seabirds won’t leave you alone, try a different fishing technique, have a break or move to another fishing spot.

It’s not difficult to recognise black petrels. They are black or very dark brown, with distinctive black feet. The bill is pale yellow with a black tip and a noticeable double tube nostril on top.

If you do catch a bird, information on safe release can be found on the Ministry for Primary Industry’s website at


Pictured: A takoketai/black petrel busy hunting for food. Photo by Neil Fitzgerald.