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Please, Minister, Save Our Sealions

27 September 2006 – Wellington

Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

Please, Minister, Save Our Sealions

Nearly 17,000 New Zealanders have asked Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton to stop the killing of endangered New Zealand sealions by the southern squid fishery.

A petition by Forest & Bird asking the minister to set the sealion kill quota for the 2006-07 squid fishing season at close to zero has been signed by 16,752 people and was presented to Steve Chadwick, Chairwoman of the Local Government and Environment Select Committee, at Parliament today.

Jim Anderton had refused to accept the petition, so Steve Chadwick agreed to accept it on his behalf, along with a sealion ice sculpture, symbolising the 2000 sealions that have died in the squid fishery since 1980.

Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell says the number of signatures received since June reflect an unprecedented level of public concern over the issue, and show that New Zealanders do not accept the high number of sealions being killed by the squid fishing industry.

“New Zealanders know that it is wrong to kill these threatened, endemic marine mammals in numbers which put them at risk of extinction. We hope that the minister will take their concern into account when he sets the kill quota for the coming season.

“We also hope that Jim Anderton will not give in to pressure from the squid fishing industry when he sets the kill quota this year, as he did last season when he raised the kill quota from 97 to a record high of 150 sealions after the industry ‘indicated’ it would take legal action.”

Forest & Bird’s petition asks that the minister reduce the kill quota this year to close to zero, and encourages alternative methods of fishing that do not harm sealions.

The New Zealand sealion is the world’s rarest sealion, with just 5000 breeding adults remaining, and pup production has fallen 30% since 1998. It is protected under the Marine Mammals Act, which lists it as a threatened species.

“The New Zealand Government is prepared to take a stand on the international stage in opposing the killing of whales, yet at home it is allowing the killing of a native marine mammal that is at greater threat of extinction than minke whales,” Kevin Hackwell says.

“If the squid fishery is allowed to continue to kill sealions in such high numbers, we may lose this unique marine mammal forever. We ask the minister to take heed of the public’s call for him to act to protect the New Zealand sealion when he sets the kill quota this year.”

ENDS


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