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NZ SailGP team celebrates agreement to boost protections for threatened seabirds

by James Rigby/NZSailGP 15 Dec 2021 14:52 NZDT 15 December 2021
New Zealand SailGP Team co-helmed by Peter Burling and Blair Tuke warm up before racing Event 6, Season 2 in Cadiz, Andalucia, Spain © Felix Diemer/SailGP

The New Zealand SailGP Team has celebrated the signing of an historic agreement between the Governments of New Zealand and Spain to address the conservation emergency facing seabirds that migrate across international waters, including albatrosses and petrels.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by New Zealand’s Ambassador to Spain Nigel Fyfe and Spanish Vice President Teresa Ribera in Madrid overnight signals prioritisation at the highest level by the two countries to reduce the number of threatened seabirds dying as a result of commercial fishing practices.

Through its Race for the Future partnership with Live Ocean, the marine conservation organisation founded by Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, the New Zealand SailGP Team has actively used its platform to highlight the threats many seabirds face at sea, including New Zealand’s Antipodean albatross.

New Zealand SailGP Team co-CEOs Burling and Tuke met with Ambassador Fyfe in Madrid in October ahead of the Spain Sail Grand Prix, as well as Spain’s Secretary of State for Sport José Manuel Franco.

They discussed the transformational role sport can play in supporting environmental action, and gave their strong support for the planned cooperation between New Zealand and Spain for the protection of seabirds in the Southern Ocean.

At the Spain Sail Grand Prix in Cádiz, the team displayed a graphic of the Antipodean albatross on its boat as a symbol of the team’s commitment to shining a spotlight on the plight of this great ocean voyager and working to stop their freefall to extinction.

Burling and Tuke also shared their story of founding Live Ocean and their first project on racing to save the Antipodean albatross at SailGP’s Champions for Change forum in Cádiz, along with Ambassador Fyfe.

The Antipodean albatross is New Zealand’s most threatened albatross with estimates of 2,300 lost each year. The number one threat to them is being accidentally caught by long line fisheries.

Burling said: “We see the Antipodean albatross as a symbol for the crisis facing many of the world’s seabirds and the threats they face from longline fisheries. These incredible navigators are in a population freefall towards extinction and it’s excellent to see these two countries work together. Now the agreement is in place, it’s time for action.”

The Ambassador for Spain Nigel Fyfe said “This is a tangible commitment to ensure our fishing boats follow best practices to avoid capture of seabirds in the southern fisheries. And our two countries will go out and work with other countries involved in that fishery to ensure those best practices are widely followed.”

“It wouldn’t have happened without the leadership and determination of Pete Burling and Blair Tuke who for the past two years have been championing the Antipodean albatross alongside the New Zealand scientists, agencies and communities committed to saving them from freefall to extinction” said the Ambassador.”

Now a signed MOU is in place, The New Zealand SailGP Team alongside Live Ocean is looking to the New Zealand government to scale up its commitment to action, including engaging with more nations where migratory birds travel including Taiwan, Australia, Japan and Pacific nations, and working with fishing fleets to actively encourage uptake of the bycatch measures.

Tuke said: “Aotearoa New Zealand is the seabird capital of the world. If we don’t lead this, who will? It’s really encouraging to see New Zealand and Spain stepping up to this issue.

“These birds don’t understand national boundaries, the Antipodean albatross roams between New Zealand, Chile, Australia and the Pacific, so countries have to work together.”

The albatross graphic will once again feature on the team’s F50 at the upcoming Australia Sail Grand Prix presented by KPMG in Sydney this Friday, December 17 (live on Sky Sport at 1800 NZT)

SailGP Director of purpose and impact Fiona Morgan said: “At SailGP we believe sport has the power to change the world, and the New Zealand SailGP Team has demonstrated that by effecting real policy change to boost protection for threatened seabirds. Sustainability has been embedded with the team since day one through its partnership with Live Ocean, and it’s amazing to see them using their platform and ours to deliver real change for a better planet.”

Sport for Climate Action Lead at UN Climate Change, Lindita Xhaferi-Salihu said: “The New Zealand SailGP Team has brought its commitment to the Sports for Climate Action Framework to life, raising awareness of the plight of the Antipodean albatross through the sport of sailing and using their voices for good. Biodiversity underpins the health of our planet. Protecting and restoring our ecosystems and the life within them is critical to our response to a changing climate.”

SailGP Season 2 - Remaining regattas

  • December 17-18, 2021 Australia Sail Grand Prix presented by KPMG | Sydney
  • March 26-27, 2022 United States Sail Grand Prix | San Francisco (Season 2 Grand Final)

About SailGP: SailGP races for a better future, championing a world powered by nature. The world’s most exciting race on-water, SailGP features national teams battling in short, intense races at iconic stadium-style venues across the globe, building to the grand final – and sailing’s top prize of US$1 million. The high-tech, high-speed action features sailing’s best athletes racing in identical hydro foiling F50 catamarans, flying at speeds approaching 100 km/h. Visit SailGP.com for more information.

About Live Ocean: Live Ocean is a marine conservation foundation established by sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke to amplify and accelerate positive ocean action in Aotearoa New Zealand. As sailors and all-round ocean lovers, they’re bringing their ambition and competitive spirit to step up to the urgent challenge to protect and restore the ocean. Live Ocean partners with exceptional local talent whose work has global implications for the health of the ocean and the life in it. We use the power of sport to take these insights and the ambition for a healthy ocean to the world stage using the platform of global sailing events. Our impact is driven through three cross-cutting focal areas: science, outreach and innovation. liveocean.com or @itsliveocean

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