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Auckland Island marine mammal sanctuary may extend

Call to extend Auckland Island marine mammal sanctuary

An extended marine mammal sanctuary around the Auckland Islands would safeguard threatened New Zealand sea lions without preventing squid fishing. Each year dozens of sea lions die a painful, terror-filled death in 150-200 metre wide trawl nets of the Auckland Islands squid fishery. Sea lion friendly fishing methods such as jigging would prevent this.

“Every year the Minister of Fisheries allows sea lions to be killed in squid trawling nets instead of requiring squid fishers to use jigging. It’s about time that the Government took action,” said Forest and Bird’s senior researcher Barry Weeber .

Forest and Bird today presented an autopsy report and photos of a female sea lion that had been killed in the squid fishery. The autopsy report and photographs were obtained from Department of Conservation under the Official Information Act. They were originally presented to the Department of Conservation’s marine mammal working group in July.

“We will be calling for a zero bycatch limit because the industry does not need to kill sea lions to catch squid. It is time for the Minister of Fisheries to stop putting the interests of foreign trawlers ahead of New Zealand ’s only endemic sea lion,” Mr Weeber said.

Yesterday, in response to a Parliamentary Question, Conservation Minister Chris Carter said in relation to jigging:

“Those technologies are certainly much more marine mammal friendly, but I do understand from my dialogues with the squid fishing industry that the stormy oceans of the southern seas do put at risk certain technologies that can be used safely elsewhere.”

“ New Zealand fishers have previously jigged around the Auckland Islands . Jiggers are used in the squid fishery around the Falkland Islands . What is needed is an incentive for fishers in New Zealand waters to use jiggers, a ban on trawling would do that.”

New Zealand sea lions are protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act. However a special exemption under the Act allows the fishing industry to kill sea lions in the course of fishing.

Notes:

1. Over 85 percent of the squid trawl catch is taken by foreign trawlers from Korea , Russia , Ukraine , Poland and Japan chartered to New Zealand companies.

2. New Zealand Sea lions can dive to over 550 metres and they are the deepest diving of all fur seals and sea lions.

3. 90 percent of the sea lion population breed on the Auckland Islands . The main rookery is on Dundas Island which is the size of two football fields. Around 2500 pups are produced each year from a mature population of around 7000.

4. Jiggers are a standard fishing method to catch squid which rely on bright lights, jigging machines and multi-barbed hooks.

5. Sea lions used to range all around New Zealand with breeding in Nelson and in the far north but are now restricted to sub-Antarctic Islands .

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