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Imminent closure of squid fishery

Imminent closure of squid fishery

The imminent closure of the Auckland Islands squid fishery after a report that it has killed over 100 sea lions this year highlights the need for the fishery to change its fishing method, according to Forest and Bird.

“This is the second year when over 100 sea lions have been drowned in the fishery,” Forest and Bird Senior Researcher, Barry Weeber said. “Because of inadequate reporting arrangements the actual sea lion deaths could be double the official figures.”

“We urge the Minister of Fisheries to look at alternative fishing methods for the Auckland Islands squid fishery,” said Mr. Weeber. “Sea lion deaths would drop to virtually zero if the Minister required the squid fishers to use jiggers”.

“It’s about time that the Government took action. There’s no excuse for the annual sea lion slaughter.”

“New Zealand fishers have previously jigged for squid 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.”

“It is time for the Minister of Fisheries to stop putting the interests of foreign trawlers ahead of New Zealand’s only endemic threatened sea lion,” Mr Weeber said.

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

An extended marine mammal sanctuary around the Auckland Islands combined with jigging would safeguard threatened New Zealand sea lions without preventing squid fishing. This would be consistent with the World Heritage status of these islands and their surrounding territorial seas.



1. The fishery is managed on the basis of the number of sea lions drowned per squid tow. The Minister of Fisheries has agreed to a rate of 5.3 deaths per hundred tows, but the rate has been over 11 deaths per hundred tows when the fishery was 100 percent observed.

2. 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.

3. 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 this sea lion population breed on the Auckland Islands which is a World Heritage Area. 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.

3. The sea lion population has declined by over 20 percent in the last 5 years after reaching a peak in pup numbers in 1997-98.

4. Jiggers are a standard fishing method to catch squid which rely on bright lights, jigging machines and multi-barbed hooks. This method does not catch sea lions.

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

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