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Save Our Sealions

07 June 2006 - Wellington

Forest and Bird Media Release for immediate use

Save Our Sealions

Forest & Bird launched a petition today urging the government to take action to stop the needless slaughter of sealions by the squid fishing industry.

Tomorrow (June 8) is World Oceans Day and Forest & Bird is using this day to bring to government attention its concerns about the number of sealions being killed in squid nets, and urging Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton to reduce the death toll close to zero.

This squid fishing season Jim Anderton increased the allowable sealion kill by 52% from 97 to 150 animals at the request of the squid fishing industry – the highest level ever. Information obtained by Forest & Bird under the Official Information Act provides further proof that killing 150 sealions a year is not sustainable. The information reveals that:

- The number of sealion pups born in 2005-06 fell to the lowest point since robust monitoring began. The 2089 pups produced during the season represent a 30% decline over the last eight years.

- Conservation Minister Chris Carter told Jim Anderton that he was concerned about the increase in allowable kill, and there was no new information to justify raising the limit for scientific reasons. “To do this in the face of declining pup production of a threatened species is of grave concern and not at all prudent from a conservation perspective,” Chris Carter’s office wrote to Jim Anderton’s office.

- The Ministry of Fisheries also advised Jim Anderton that there was no new scientific information submitted by the squid fishing industry which would justify raising the limit.

- The amount of income the industry claimed it would lose through lost opportunities to catch squid if the allowable kill was not raised was “significantly overstated,” in the view of the Fisheries Ministry.

- The Fisheries Ministry acknowledges that the number of pups born was the lowest figure since records began, and that the industry’s claim that the sealion population is 30% higher than Department of Conservation estimates has no basis.

- The Department of Conservation advised that a continued decline in the number of sealion pups might lead to the reclassification of the New Zealand sealion from “vulnerable” to “endangered” under both World Conservation Union (IUCN) and DOC classifications – this would be the same threat status as the great panda (IUCN Red List).

Forest & Bird is calling on the government to reduce the 2007 sealion “kill quota” to close to zero to encourage the squid fishing industry to fish for squid using the jigging method, which has no impact on sealions.

Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate Kirstie Knowles says there is no reason why jiggers – which attract squid using bright lights - cannot be used in southern waters.

“Sealion exclusion devices” or “SLEDs”currently used on squid boats are frequently ineffective in preventing sealion deaths, and can cause sealions to suffer cruel and drawn-out deaths by injury and drowning, Kirstie Knowles says.

A study by Department of Conservation marine expert Dr Louise Chilvers shows significant decline in populations of breeding females and sealion pups in recent years, leading to an estimated species population of 11,995 – the second lowest estimate in the last decade – and the study predicts the population will continue to fall in the next 5-10 years.

“If the squid fishing industry is allowed to continue to kill New Zealand sealions at the current rate, sealion numbers will be pushed further towards extinction. There is no reason why sealions must be killed when the fishing industry can adopt alternative methods that do no harm to these magnificent and vulnerable marine mammals,” Kirstie Knowles says.

Those who wish to support Forest & Bird’s bid to Save Our Sealions can sign the petition online at www.forestandbird.org.nz.


© Scoop Media

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