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Closure Of Squid Fishery Welcomed

Closure Of Squid Fishery Welcomed - Sea Lions Safe ...For Now

The Forest and Bird Protection Society today welcomed the Minister of Fisheries' decision to close the Auckland Islands' squid fishery for the year in order to protect the New Zealand (or Hooker's) sea lion.

Society spokesperson, Barry Weeber, said that while the Society welcomed the decision, it was disappointing that the limit of 79 sea lion kills had again been exceeded.

Mr Weeber said that since the squid fishery started in the early 1980s over 2,000 New Zealand sea lions, which are the world's rarest, have died.

"The closure of the fishery in 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000 and again this year is a clear sign that the fishing industry must look at alternative methods for catching squid around the Auckland Islands."

Mr Weeber said the industry must consider using jiggers which are widely used to catch squid elsewhere, as an alternative to trawling.

Mr Weeber noted that the fishing industry had failed to meet their commitments to the operational plan so that more sea lions may have drowned this year than has been estimated.

"The Minister of Fisheries has confirmed in correspondence to Forest and Bird that: "Some operators within the SQU6T [Auckland Islands' squid] fishery have not complied with several elements on the operational plan... This situation meant that the catch of sea lions against the MALFiRM [Maximum number of allowable deaths] could not be measured as intended in the plan." (Dated 28 March 2002).

"Before the squid fishery is opened next year it is critical that there is an effective regulatory arrangement to ensure this failure does not happen again and that the companies involved are prosecuted."

Mr Weeber noted that the Auckland Islands' squid fishery catch has been very variable with an average of only 50 percent of the allowable catch limit for squid being caught in the last 14 years. In 1999 only 3% of the catch limit was caught.

"The Ministers of Fisheries and Conservation need to urgently develop a management plan to deal with the Auckland Islands' fisheries. This must include extension of the current marine mammal sanctuary out to 100 kilometres off the Auckland Islands.

"Squid fishing has drowned the most sea lions but it is not the only fishery that kills sea lions - they are also drowned in the scampi, southern blue whiting and orange roughy fisheries around the Auckland Islands."

Mr Weeber said the scampi, southern blue whiting and orange roughy fisheries should also be closed around the Auckland Islands.

"It is critical to close these fisheries as the new outbreak of deaths of sea lion pups indicates that not all is well with the sea lions."

Mr Weeber said it was critical to determine the reason for these deaths and what impact the squid fishery was having on the sea lions' diet.

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