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Anderton pressured by legal threat on sealions

29 August 2006 - Wellington

Forest & Bird Media release for immediate use

Anderton pressured by legal threat on sealion deaths

Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton allowed the squid fishing industry to kill more sealions this year after they threatened legal action.

An article in this month’s Forest & Bird magazine, written by Dave Hansford of Origin Natural History Media, shows the threat of legal action was “indicated” just before the Minister agreed to raise the number of sealions the industry was allowed to kill from 97 to 150.

Forest & Bird is campaigning to have the Government reduce the sealion kill quota to close to zero, and encourage alternative fishing methods such as jigging, which does not harm sealions.

The Minister’s senior advisor told Dave Hansford that he was visited by squid industry heads – accompanied by a lawyer - within weeks of setting the 2006 kill quota at 97 late last year.

“It was indicated that an injunction would be lodged and a judicial review sought if there was no extension to the season,”Jim Anderton said in an interview with Dave Hansford.

The Minister subsequently increased the kill quota to 150, against advice from the Department of Conservation and protests by Conservation Minister Chris Carter.

Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate Kirstie Knowles says the Minister was clearly pressured by the squid fishing industry to raise the kill quota, against advice from officials that doing so would risk further exacerbating the decline in sealion populations.

“The Government is happy to speak up on the world stage in opposition to Japanese whalers killing minke whales, yet legislates for an endemic New Zealand marine mammal that is much rarer than minke whales to be killed by our fishing industry in New Zealand waters,” Kirstie Knowles says.

“We ask that the Government take an equally strong stance to protect New Zealand sealions as they take to protect whales.”

New Zealand sealions are the world’s rarest sealion. Once they numbered in the millions and were found right around New Zealand’s coastline, but now number just 12,000 and breed at just three remote subantarctic locations. Pup births have fallen by 30% in the last eight years, and New Zealand sealions are listed on the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List of Species Threatened with Extinction.

On average, according to Fisheries Ministry figures, the New Zealand squid fishing industry catches a sealion 5.3 times every 100 “tows.” Most of these are females, whose pups are left to starve on-shore.

A copy of the Forest and Bird magazine article can be found at www.forestandbird.org.nz, alongside Forest & Bird’s on-line petition to Save Our Sealions.


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