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Fisheries Minister caves-in to industry pressure

12 November 2004 - Wellington

Fisheries Minister caves-in to industry pressure

Fisheries Minister Hon. David Benson-Pope has nearly doubled the number of threatened sea lions that his predecessor allowed to be killed in New Zealand's sub-antarctic squid fishery.

"Mr Benson-Pope has decided to allow 115 sea lions to be killed in 2005 to satisfy industry resistance to sea lion-friendly fishing methods," said Forest and Bird's senior researcher Barry Weeber.

Last year his predecessor Pete Hodgson set a limit of 62 allowable sea lion deaths, although the High Court later increased the allowable kill to 124 sea lions.

"Mr Benson-Pope is the first Fisheries Minister of any government to propose an annual kill of over 80 sea lions," Mr Weeber said.

"Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope should have required the squid fishing industry to use sea lion-friendly jiggers that catch next to no sea lions. By doing this, he could have set a limit of sea lion deaths that was close to zero," he said.

"It is time for the Government to stop putting the interests of foreign trawlers ahead of New Zealand's only endemic sea lion," Mr Weeber said.

Notes

An extended marine mammal sanctuary around the sub-Antarctic 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.

New Zealand fishers have previously jigged around the Auckland Islands. Jiggers are used in the squid fishery around the Falkland Islands. A ban on trawling would create an incentive for New Zealand squid fishers to use jiggers. Jiggers are a standard fishing method to catch squid which rely on bright lights, jigging machines and multi-barbed hooks.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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

ENDS

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