A commercial fisherman from Dunedin was recognised at an awards ceremony in Wellington last night for his innovation designed to protect seabirds.
Gavin Heineman declined an all-expenses-paid trip to collect his award at the Seabird Smart Awards because he was too busy fishing.
The awards recognise commercial and recreational fishers committed to looking after New Zealand seabirds.
The award winners were announced by Conservation Minister Maggie Barry at Te Papa.
The special innovation award was given to Mr Heineman for re-engineering the fishing deck on his 13.7m vessel Echo to include an aluminium chute for the crew to discard the guts and heads of fish.
The design ensures the heads and guts are released in an area of sea away from the trawl cables.
"It keeps the birds out of the danger zone.''
Cables were hard for birds to see and they could injure themselves if they struck them.
"When they get really hungry, they put themselves in danger.''
The chute design was always "evolving'' and the idea for a curtain across the chute exit had been proposed to try to fool birds waiting at the back of the boat by disguising the presence and direction of the guts and heads.
Southern Seabird Solutions Trust chairman Bill Mansfield said New Zealand was the "seabird capital of the world''.
"As the breeding ground for a third of the world's seabird species, we have an international responsibility to ensure their long-term survival.''
The awards, held every two years, are run by the trust.
Altair Fishing Ltd, of Nelson, won an award for measures to protect seabirds across its fleet of tuna vessels on the West Coast.
They included using bird-scaring lines, setting fishing lines at night, adding weights to make bait sink quickly and dying bait to make it less visible to birds.