The omens look good for exporters wanting a better deal from FTA with the UK – but not so good for endangered albatross

Trade Minister Damien O’Connor kicked off our day with the cheering news that New Zealand and the UK have committed to accelerating their free trade agreement negotiations with the aim of reaching an agreement in principle this August.

This compensated for the news that the first day’s play on the scheduled first day of the cricket test between the Black Caps and India had been abandoned.

“We’ve held constructive and productive discussions towards the conclusion of a high-quality and comprehensive FTA that will support sustainable and inclusive trade, and help drive New Zealand’s economic recovery from COVID,” Damien O’Connor said.

He will leave the UK on Monday morning for Brussels where he will meet with his trade counterpart to advance NZ’s FTA negotiations with the European Union.

His good news landed in our in tray on World Albatross Day but the news from the Beehive for the endangered Antipodean albatross was ominous. 

Their numbers are declining at an alarming rate.

Albatrosses feed on fish near the surface, making them vulnerable to being caught on fishing lines or in nets.

Acting Conversation Minister Ayesha Verrall said the government has a plan aiming to reduce domestic bycatch to zero and is funding a wider roll-out of cameras on inshore fishing vessels.

Latest from the Beehive

Free trade agreements

Face to face meeting delivers significant progress on NZ-UK FTA

The UK’s International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and NZ’s Trade and Export Growth Minister Trade Damien O’Connor have concluded a day of detailed talks in London and issued a joint statement.

Negotiating teams will now accelerate talks and spend the coming weeks finalising details with the aim of reaching agreement in principle in August.

“My visit to London has been timely and constructive. There’s been real value in meeting face to face with Secretary Truss. During our discussions I reaffirmed New Zealand’s wish to see a high quality agreement concluded with the UK as swiftly as possible,” Damien O’Connor said.

“For New Zealand that means receiving a market access offer that eliminates tariffs and provides commercially meaningful access from day one of the agreement.”

The government’s priority is achieving “ an ambitious deal”.

Both ministers are confident their negotiating teams will be able to make “important progress” over the coming weeks, O’Connor said.

In London, he also met with Minister of State in the Cabinet Office Lord Frost and with key Parliamentary and industry representatives.

In his capacity as Minister of Agriculture, he met with UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice. They discussed the challenges and opportunities for their respective primary and food producing sectors and the valuable role that an FTA could play in our economic recovery.

Joint Statement from New Zealand and UK governments:

The UK and New Zealand yesterday (Thursday 17 June) held constructive and productive discussions towards the conclusion of a high-quality and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement that will support sustainable and inclusive trade. Both countries are confident that the remaining issues will be resolved, with talks on track to deliver a fantastic agreement.

UK International Trade Secretary and New Zealand Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor concluded a day of detailed talks yesterday in London. 

Negotiating teams will now accelerate talks and spend the coming weeks finalising details with the aim of reaching agreement in principle in August.

Conservation

Government taking action to protect albatross

The latest population modelling, carried out by Dragonfly Data Science, shows the Antipodean albatross population is declining at 5% a year.

The current population of this species – classified as nationally critical – is estimated at around 3200 breeding pairs but only about 400 pairs may remain in 2050 under the projected decline.

The theme for World Albatross Day today, ‘Ensuring Albatross-Friendly Fisheries’, references the numbers of albatross and petrels killed in fisheries and the efforts being made to combat this.

“A decline of this magnitude is particularly concerning for a long-lived and slow-breeding species like the Antipodean albatross,” Ayesha Verrall said.

“The current decline in numbers means that over three generations the Antipodean albatross will be on the verge of extinction if we don’t take action.”

The government has “an action plan” aimed at reducing the fishing industry’s domestic bycatch to zero and has just announced funding for a wider roll-out of cameras on inshore fishing vessels.

This is being phased in to prioritise vessels that pose the greatest threat to protected species, including the Antipodean albatross.

DOC is involved in albatross research and in international efforts to reduce bycatch.

New Zealand is regarded as the albatross capital of the world, with 17 species found across New Zealand waters and territories, and 11 species breeding here.

World Albatross Day was established by a consortium of countries party to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP). ACAP members strive to conserve albatrosses and petrels by coordinating international activities to mitigate threats to their populations.

In 2019 ACAP declared that a conservation crisis continues to be faced by its 31 listed species, with thousands of albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters dying every year in fisheries operations.

There are about 75 tracked Antipodean albatross, in the third year of a project funded by DOC, the Ministry for Primary Industries, Albatross Research, Live Ocean and the Southern Seabirds Solution Trust.

Proven methods available for fishers to use on their vessels to keep birds away from the danger zones include bird-scaring lines, line weighting, hook-shielding devices, fishing at night and managing fish waste to avoid attracting birds.

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