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Minister sets sea lion limit

23rd November 2006

Minister sets sea lion limit

Action to protect the sea lion population in the southern squid trawl area, SQU 6T, was taken today by Fisheries Minister, Jim Anderton.

The Minister has set the maximum allowable number of sea lion deaths for the 2006-2007 fishing year at 93. Last season’s limit of 97 was increased to 150 on a one-off basis during the squid season, but only an estimated 110 were caught.

“I considered it necessary to impose this lower mortality limit to reduce the effects of fishing on the sea lion population, which are a protected species. New Zealand sea lions eat squid and are at risk of capture and drowning when they follow squid into trawl nets so it is necessary to constrain the level of fishing,” Jim Anderton said.

The southern squid trawl SQU 6T fishery operates around the Auckland Islands, from February to April or May, or until the fishing-related mortality limit for sea lions is reached.

The New Zealand sea lion, formerly known as the Hooker's sea lion, is classified as threatened under the Marine Mammals Protection Act, meaning it is not immediately threatened with extinction but is potentially vulnerable to population decline due to limited numbers of breeding sites.

“It’s a difficult decision to set limits on the number of deaths allowable every year before closing the area to squid fishing. I am required by law to balance the needs of the squid industry with the need to ensure the sustainability of sea lions. I have chosen a cautious approach given uncertainties with the extent to which the model used to assess the effect of fishing reflects the reality in the SQU 6T fishery,” said Jim Anderton.

Mr. Anderton consulted with the Minister of Conservation prior to making his decision. The Department of Conservation is developing a long-term management regime for New Zealand sea lions as provided under the Marine Mammals Protection Act.

ENDS

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