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Sea lion advice encouraging

20 September 2006 – Wellington

Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

Sea lion advice encouraging

The yearly sealion kill quota should come down now that the Ministry of Fisheries has advised more conservative limits on the number of sealions killed in the squid fishery, Forest & Bird says.

This month the ministry has revised downwards previous advice that up to 550 New Zealand sealions could be killed as by-catch in the squid fishery without affecting the sustainability of the sealion population.

The ministry’s latest advice is that Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton should set a sealion kill quota for the coming season somewhere between 55 and 218 sealions.

Forest & Bird Conservation Manager Kevin Hackwell says the much more conservative parameters now being suggested by the Fisheries Ministry are a step in the right direction towards reflecting the reality of the declining sealion population.

The ministry’s latest advice confirms concerns expressed by Forest & Bird for many years about the Breen Kim model which is used to calculate a sustainable kill quota. The model does not take into account a number of factors, including a 30% decline in pup production since 1998.

“If the ministry’s latest advice had been available six months ago, it would have been much harder for the minister to justify raising the kill quota to 150 last season,” Kevin Hackwell says.

When the minister raised the quota for the last season from 97 to 150, he stated that he could have set it much higher without risking sustainability of the sealion population:

“The scientific advice provided to me from independent scientists at NIWA was that a mortality limit of up to 550 sea lions would not compromise the sustainability of the twelve thousand sea lions on the Auckland Islands. However, I chose to take an extremely cautious approach and set the limit at 150 sea lions,” the minister said in June.

“We have always known that there was no way you can kill 500 sealions and have no impact on this vulnerable and declining population. We are pleased to see that the ministry is now advising a much more cautious approach in assessing the potential impact of sealion deaths in the squid fishery on overall sealion numbers,” Kevin Hackwell says.

“We hope the minister will take a similarly cautious approach when setting the kill quota for the 2006-07 season and will set a limit close to zero. We believe that no sealions at all need to be killed, but at least the ministry’s new recommendations are a move in the right direction.”

- The New Zealand sealion is New Zealand’s only endemic pinniped and is among the rarest sealion in the world. It is listed as threatened under the Marine Mammals Act, and is listed as vulnerable (defined as facing high risk of extinction) by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
- Once found right around the New Zealand coastline, New Zealand sealions now breed only on a few remote sub-Antarctic islands.
- Forest & Bird is asking the minister to set the kill quota for the squid fishery as close to zero as possible and encourage alternative methods of fishing which do not harm sealions.


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