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The Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust has indicated to the Dunedin City Council it will seek the council's support in its battle against the threat to the species from inshore commercial fishing.
Trust field manager Dave McFarlane told councillors at a public forum in Dunedin this week the trust initially sought acknowledgement from the council that yellow-eyed penguins played a key part in Dunedin's $100 million-a-year nature-based tourism economy.
In acknowledging that, the council needed to be aware the penguins, and thus Dunedin's reputation as the wildlife capital of New Zealand, were under threat from inshore commercial set-net and trawler fishing, he said.
The number of nests was declining and it was time to take action, he said.
"I think there's a perception that the yellow-eyed penguins are here to stay, but the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust does not share that belief.
"If we, as a city, value this species, we need to take some responsibility for its conservation."
Asked by Cr Richard Thomson exactly what it was seeking from the council, Mr McFarlane said, generally, the trust was seeking the council's advocacy and support to alleviate the problem of penguins being caught and killed during commercial fishing operations.
"It may involve attending meetings in Wellington, or joining the trust or other organisations in making submissions."
The trust would meet Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull and council chief executive Paul Orders next month to discuss the matter in detail. "This is just a heads up for you really."
The trust had been plugging away for 10 years at limiting penguin by-catch, during which time official observers had been watching fisheries catches.
There were questions over how thorough and accurate that information was, but the trust believed there was already enough data to indicate there was a problem.
"We need to work out how we go about mitigating or eliminating that by-catch."