Tēnā koe e hoa mā! Ko Steph Borrelle ahau, he pākehā au, E mihi ana ki ngā tohu o nehe, o Te Kawerau a Maki e non nei au.
(Hello friends! my name is Steph Borrelle and I am pākehā, I recognise the ancestral land of Te Kawerau a Maki).
Aotearoa New Zealand, my home, is the seabird capital of the world – we have 87 species that breed here! Seabirds are the most threatened group of animals worldwide – a whopping (and unacceptable) 31% risk extinction.
Land-based conservation efforts (such as predator eradication) around the world have improved the conservation status of numerous species (like the New Zealand storm petrel), but threats at sea continue to cause significant declines for many of these captivating birds.
Fisheries bycatch is one of the most critical issues facing albatrosses and petrels around the world. In my role as Marine and Pacific Regional Coordinator at BirdLife International, I work in collaboration with government, non-governmental organisations, and private industry to end seabird deaths in long-line fisheries through Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs).
Seabirds are also disproportionately affected by plastic pollution because of their foraging strategies (feeding at the surface of the oceans). During my David H. Smith Postdoctoral Fellowship, I was based at the University of Toronto (in the Rochman Lab with Associate Professor Chelsea Rochman & Ocean Conservancy), and the University of Georgia, USA with Associate Professor Jenna Jambeck) – two of the world’s leading experts on plastic pollution. The results of my postdoc research were published in Science in September 2020. We evaluated how much effort is needed to meaningfully reduce future plastic emissions into marine and freshwater ecosystems. Our work aims to inform governments, NGOs, businesses, and individuals about the level of effort that we need to put in as a global community to eliminate plastic pollution (details at www.plasticpeg.org or on twitter).
With this research, I hope that I can contribute to making the oceans a little less crowded with plastic for our seabirds.
See my research outputs at Google Scholar