New Zealand has more threatened seabird species than anywhere else in the world and the planned deepwater oil and gas drilling may drive them to extinction, according to a new report by Forest & Bird.
Forest & Bird says the report has major implications for the government’s ongoing large-scale sell-off of deep sea oil and gas drilling rights.
The report on important bird areas (IBAs) for New Zealand seabirds is part of a global effort to identify where bird species live and ensure protection.
Forest & Bird seabird advocate Karen Baird said: "More than one-third of the world’s seabird species live at least part of their lives in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
"New Zealand also has more seabird species that breed only within its jurisdiction than any other country in the world."
The global IBAs project uses agreed scientific criteria from Forest & Bird’s partner BirdLife International to start the process of identifying the location of internationally recognised marine IBAs.
Baird said the sheer number of IBAs for seabirds calls for a major rethink of the mass sell-off of deep water oil and gas drilling rights within the EEZ.
Baird added: "As the industry oil spill modelling shows, a deep sea blowout could cover thousands of square kilometres of bird habitat in oil, which in turn could push some species to the brink of extinction.
"All threats to all IBAs for seabirds will need to be minimised, including those from fishing and uncontrolled coastal development."
Image: Black-browed Mollymawk. Photo: courtesy of Michael Lookman / Forest & Bird.