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Govt inactive as native sea lions trawled to death

9 September, 2004

Govt inactive as native sea lions trawled to death

The Green Party said today that it is unacceptable for the Government to put the convenience of the fishing industry ahead of the survival of the New Zealand sea lion.

Green Party Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons joined Forest and Bird in calling for a 100km 'no-trawl zone' to surround Auckland Islands, the habitat for 95 per cent of New Zealand's 7000 native Hooker's sea lions.

"New Zealand's native sea lion population is under serious threat from the squid fishery operating dragnets of death in the southern seas - but the Government has effectively given the green light to allow boats to kill more of them," said Jeanette Fitzsimons.

"I was appalled when in the House yesterday the Minister of Conservation, who has a statutory duty to protect sea lions, excused the fishing industry from using best-practice technology because it is difficult when the sea is rough.

"Instead the Minister defended the proposal of the Ministry of Fisheries to allow twice the number of deaths as was set last year before the fishery is closed. Last year's limit was grossly exceeded because the industry challenged the ruling in court. Now the Ministry is seeking to make this the standard.

"I call on the Government to ban the use of trawling nets within 100kms of the Auckland Islands to create a refuge for the sea lions and to require safer alternatives such as jigger boats.

"We cannot leave any discretion in protecting our endangered species to an industry which goes to court over every environmental rule the Minister sets," she said.

"Sea lions live in a very vulnerable habitat so it is completely unacceptable that squid boats are allowed to trawl nets as big is the Sky Tower sideways through these waters.

"Sea lions suffer horrific injuries akin to being hit by a car when they are caught, while mechanisms designed to protect or 'eject' sea lions caught in the nets have still not been effective," she said.


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