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Proposal gets thumbs up from squid fishers

Media Release from the Deepwater Fisheries Stakeholder Group

Minister's proposal gets the thumbs up from squid fishers

Friday, 17 March 2006

The Minister of Fisheries' proposal to allow squid fishers to take advantage of more squid in the southern ocean this season is good news, says the industry group representing the quota owners.

"The Minister is proposing an increase in the southern trawl squid fleet's nominal sea lion mortality limit for this season from just under 100 to 150 to allow for more squid to be caught, but it does not mean that many animals will be harmed as a result," says Richard Cade, who represents the Deepwater Stakeholder Group (DSG). "In fact, we believe the fleet could see out the season with a much smaller number of sea lions being lost."

The figure Mr Anderton and his advisors use comes from calculations based on several assumptions, including one which predetermines that for every 100 trawls about five sea lions will be lost in trawl nets. In fact, reports from independent observers stationed on every third vessel show only three animals have died since fishing began in February, with a further four deaths reported on vessels without the observers. Moreover, scientific modelling accepted as the best available information suggests that the limit on sea lion mortality could be much higher than 150, and would not detrimentally affect the sea lion population.

DSG says the trawler crews, quota owners and Government staff are continually improving systems and equipment to ensure as few sea lions as possible become caught in trawl gear. All vessels use SLEDs (sea lion escape devices) which allow sea lions to escape from trawl nets.

"We applaud the Minister for having another look at this limit, although our view is that no limit is required because based on the science fishing does not adversely affect the sea lion population," Mr Cade says. "It's important that the public sees this for what it is. It is not a licence to kill more sea lions. It is an acknowledgment that it is possible to sustainably harvest this important fish stock in a way which is not harming the sea lion population around Auckland Islands."


Some facts and figures:

- Hookers (New Zealand) sea lion is a protected species, classified as "threatened" under the Marine Mammals Protection Act. The classification is not on the basis of low sea lion population levels but is on the basis of a limited geographic distribution. Sea lions primarily breed on the Auckland Islands and Campbell Island and the current population is thought to be around 12,000-14,000.

- The southern squid season runs from October, but by general agreement fishing does not begin until around February to avoid the sea lion breeding season. The fishing season is usually finished by May. At present, the total allowable catch in the southern fishery is about 32,000 tonnes. Squid is the country's second most valuable export species (behind hoki), worth more than $170 million in 2004.

- Pictures of SLEDs installed in trawl gear can be seen on the website. Click on SPECIES and select SQUID.

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