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Future of NZ sea lion cast in doubt by Minister

21 November 2007

Future of NZ sea lion cast in doubt by Fisheries Minister

The Minister of Fisheries has set the permissible sea lion by-kill too high to allow the threatened population to recover to sustainable levels, Green Party Conservation Spokesperson Metiria Turei says.

Despite DoCs's advice on acceptable by-kill limits, the Fisheries Minister has allowed the fishing industry and some iwi to dictate the future of this vulnerable species, by setting by-kill limits higher than DoCs recommendation.

"The objections of the industry and some iwi to the Fisheries Amendment Bill - which seeks to take a small step towards a truly sustainable fisheries - shows them to be indifferent to such precious species as the sea lion," Mrs Turei says.

"The current Fisheries Act allows by-kill levels to be influenced by fishing industry.

"The Minister has demonstrated why the current law is unsustainable - it has today allowed a by-kill limit that is greater than that recommended to allow the survival or the species.

"The Department of Conservation has a Population Management Plan pending which will base the limit for sea lion by-kill on species sustainability. The plan will result in much improved protection for sea lions when adopted by the Government.

"The Minister should take this pending plan into account and set a precautionary limit based on an absolute minimum of DoCs recommendation: 81 sea lion deaths do not allow species 'protection and recovery'."

The New Zealand sea lion is one of the world's rarest. The sea lion population in New Zealand has declined 30 percent since the 1980's. 2000 deaths were caused by the squid industry in the last 25 years, leaving a breading population of only 5000.

The squid fishing season coincides with the sea lions' 'pupping', which means that the already vulnerable population is at risk of losing many of its newest members and their mothers.

ENDS

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