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Squid fishing halt needed to protect sea lions

Squid fishing halt needed to protect sea lions

Independent conservation organisation Forest & Bird says the government must immediately close the squid fishery around the Auckland Islands, following the release of data that shows sea lion pup numbers there are falling dramatically.

“The facts speak for themselves. The New Zealand sea lion is the world’s rarest sea lion. And new pup numbers in the Auckland Islands are near record lows,” says Katrina Goddard, Forest & Bird Marine Advocate.

“Forest & Bird is welcoming the ministers of Conservation and Primary Industries’ proposed Threat Management Plan for sea lions. But a Wellington-based review is not enough.

“The way the fishery was run saw the squid fishing effort increase by 140 per cent in 2012. Given the serious questions around how many sea lions survive passing through Sea Lion Exclusion Devices (SLEDs) in trawl nets, this was clearly a grave mistake,” Katrina Goddard says.

“It is highly likely that the falling pup numbers are a consequence of fishing related impacts, such as sea lions drowning in squid nets, and potential SLED injuries. But without extensive research it’s impossible to be certain.

“The major problem here is that there is no way of knowing how many sea lion deaths are going unnoticed,” Katrina Goddard says.

In February alone the bodies of two mature females were hauled up in squid nets.

“The industry’s essentially saying look the other way in its claims that disease is what’s mostly killing the pups. But it is a fact that the industry is killing some sea lions, at the very least, and given how close to being functionally extinct these animals are, action is needed right now,” Katrina Goddard says.

The death of a mature female sea lion in late summer/autumn is likely to also result in the death of an unborn pup, as well as the starvation of a pup onshore.

“If another industry had killed two kakapo in the same short space of time, there would be an uproar, and that industry would be shut down. All the squid industry has to do is show some marine stewardship and change the way it catches squid. It would still catch as much, just maybe not as quickly. Or it could fish in other areas outside the Auckland Islands.

“The industry’s only reason for not changing its ways is greed,” says Katrina Goddard.


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