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Forest and Bird and Greens misinformed

Forest and Bird and Greens well meaning but misinformed

Statements by Forest and Bird and the Green Party today on the issue of sea lion by-catch in the squid fishery around the Auckland Islands show a misunderstanding of the Fisheries Act and the fishing industry, the Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton, said today.

“My statutory role under the Fisheries Act is to strike a balance between the economic benefits of squid – our most valuable fishery – and the impact on sea lions. I have to ensure any impact is sustainable and that is precisely what I did in this case. The Minister of Conservation has a statutory role to advocate a conservation viewpoint and he does this well, but I am required to make a balanced decision taking into account all factors,” Jim Anderton said.

“The scientific advice provided to me from independent scientists at NIWA was that a mortality limit of up to 550 sea lions would not compromise the sustainability of the twelve thousand sea lions on the Auckland Islands. However, I chose to take an extremely cautious approach and set the limit at 150 sea lions. In the event, only 110 sea lions have been estimated to die this season, 13 more than originally envisaged. This additional sea lion by-catch allowed an additional squid catch with an estimated export value of $4.7million, or $360,000 per sea lion,” Jim Anderton said.

Forest and Bird and the Greens want squid fishing limited to jigging vessels only. “Jig fishing was trialled more than twenty years ago around the Auckland Islands but was never considered viable for large jiggers. Severe ocean conditions around the Auckland Islands are difficult and hazardous for the smaller jigging vessels in the inshore fleet. Despite jiggers having no impacts on sea lions, and therefore are not constrained by the sea lion mortality limit, there has been no uptake of them. This is because jigging just isn’t economic for large vessels and downright dangerous for smaller vessels. I’m concerned about the mortality of sea lions but I’m also even more concerned about the mortality of fishermen,” Jim Anderton said.

“If we ban trawlers around the Auckland Islands then, quite simply, there will be no squid fishery there. Over the last 5 years the Auckland Island squid fishery has yielded squid with a current export value of around $260 million. I cannot in good conscience trade this off when the scientific advice is that the sea lion by catch is sustainable,” Jim Anderton said.

“It is also incorrect for Forest and Bird to state that there has been a continuous decline in the sea lion pup population. The number of sea lion pups has varied from year to year. For example in the 02/03 and 03/04 years there were more pups than in the 01/02-year. The years 95/96 to 00/01 were all more productive than 92/93 to 94/95. So, it undergoes natural fluctuations as you would expect.”

“However, I am concerned that we continue to monitor the population closely and next season, when DoC has a population management plan in place for the sea lions, we will once again look at all the scientific evidence on this and make sure the sustainability of the population is safeguarded,” Jim Anderton said.

At the end of the current season a total of 110 sea lions were estimated to have been killed in the squid fishery, although only 16 sea lions were actually reported as being killed. Last season the estimated number of sea lion mortalities was 115 sea lions, and 118 the year before that.

Ends

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