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Forest & Bird condemns death of endangered sea lion

Forest & Bird condemns death of endangered sea lion

Conservation organisation Forest & Bird is disappointed to learn about the death of an endangered New Zealand sea lion in a squid fishing net in January. The news was released late on Friday, February 7.

Forest & Bird Marine Conservation Advocate Katrina Subedar says numbers of sea lions have fallen since 1998 and they have New Zealand’s highest threat ranking. The Department of Conservation (DOC) lists the sea lion population as nationally critical and there has been ongoing concern about the decline in the numbers of sea lion pups being born.

DOC has refused to release the latest sea lion pup counts to Forest & Bird but says they are lower than previous years.

“Our sea lions are among New Zealand’s most endangered animals – they are in the same category as kakapo,” says Katrina Subedar. “New Zealanders wouldn’t accept kakapo being killed. And Forest & Bird cannot accept New Zealand sea lions being killed by the fishing industry. Our sea lions are the rarest in the world.”

New Zealand sea lions were once common around the coast of our mainland but their main breeding sites are now on the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands.

They feed in the sub-Antarctic waters where trawlers catch squid and other fish, and unfortunately these fishing vessels do capture and kill sea lions.

Forest & Bird is calling on the squid fishing industry to start using more sustainable methods. “We would like the industry to change from trawling – in which sea lions can get caught in the giant nets and drown – to jigging, which uses hooks. Jigging is safe for sea lions and would still allow the fishing industry to catch high-quality squid,” says Katrina Subedar.

Squid nets have sea lion exclusion devices (SLEDs), which are meant to allow sea lions to exit the nets but sea lions can suffer injuries when escaping or they can simply drown. “We simply do not know whether sea lions survive when they are ejected through the exit holes,” says Katrina Subedar.

Forest & Bird says New Zealand sea lions need urgent action to help their population rebuild. “If pup counts continue to decline it will be too late for the species to recover,” says Katrina Subedar.


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