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Squid jigging would reduce sea lion death toll

21 March 2006 - Wellington

Media release for immediate use

Squid jigging would reduce sea lion death toll

The annual killing of protected NZ sea lions in the southern squid fishery could be dramatically reduced to near zero by applying alternative methods of fishing such as using jiggers with bright lights, Forest & Bird said today.

Forest & Bird was responding to news that Minister of Fisheries Jim Anderton is considering allowing the squid fishing industry to increase the number of NZ sea lions it kills during a four month period in the southern squid fishery to 150. This would be a 33% increase over last year’s NZ sea lion 'kill quota' of 97 and would constitute the highest sea lion kill quota ever set.

”There is no need to increase the sea lion ‘kill quota’ to such a high level when jigging offers a safer alternative and better quality squid,” said Forest & Bird Communications Manager Michael Szabo. “It would also result in better quality squid being brought to market because trawling does more damage to the squid that are caught.”

Each year for the past eleven years the Minister of Fisheries has set a kill quota for the number of NZ sea lions the squid fishing industry is allowed to drown in its fishing nets.

The first kill quota set in 1994 was 16 protected New Zealand sea lions. In 2003 the quota was set at 62, however the fishing industry took legal action to permit increased sea lion killing. As a result, the final number of protected New Zealand sea lions killed in 2003 was 144.

"The fishing industry has previously fought against the limits set by the Government and sought to increase the rate of sea lion killing. For example, the fishing industry legally challenged the kill quota in the 2003 and 2004 seasons with the aim of increasing the number of sea lions they were allowed to kill."

"Because over half of the sea lions killed each season are pregnant females, their pups on land and the fertilised embryo of next year's pup also die," he said.

Notes to Editors
1. The New Zealand sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri) is listed as Vulnerable in the 2004 IUCN (World Conservation Union) Red List of Species Threatened with Extinction. It qualifies under category D2: "Population is characterised by an acute restriction in its area of occupancy (typically less than 100 km2) or in the number of locations (typically less than five). Such a taxon would thus be prone to the effects of human activities (or stochastic events whose impact is increased by human activities) within a very short period of time in an unforeseeable future, and is thus capable of becoming Critically Endangered or even Extinct in a very short period.

2. The species is New Zealand's only endemic pinniped.

3. Over 2,000 NZ sea lions have been killed in the Auckland Islands squid fishery since 1980.

4. Jigging involves the use of small continuous-loop hooked lines which do not pose the same risk to non-target species as trawl nets.

5. Sea lions were killed for pelts by sealers in the early 1800s and reduced to very low levels. It is likely that the population has not yet recovered to pre-European levels. Evidence indicates that NZ sea lions bred in Northland, the Nelson area and on the Chatham Islands in the last 1,000 years but were eliminated by Maori harvests prior to European sealing.

ENDS

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