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Anderton defends killing sealions on Oceans Day

8 June 2006

Anderton defends killing sealions on World Oceans Day

Forest & Bird rejects criticism by Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton that it is “misinformed” in opposing the killing of sealions by the squid fishing industry.

In April Jim Anderton raised the number of sealions the industry is allowed to kill from 97 to 150 this season. In response Forest & Bird has launched a Save Our Sealions petition this week urging the government to reduce the kill quota to close to zero for next season.

The Minister has accused Forest & Bird of being misinformed by stating that such a high kill quota risks exacerbating the decline in sealion numbers, and says advice by NIWA was that killing up to 550 sealions would be “sustainable.”

However, in 91 pages of information supplied to Forest &Bird in response to a request for all advice received before he set the kill limit, the Minister is advised by the Ministry of Fisheries and Conservation Minister Chris Carter that sealion numbers are in decline and that there is no new scientific evidence to support raising the kill limit.

Forest & Bird General Manager Mike Britton says he also rejects Jim Anderton’s assertion that the sealion pup population is not in decline but has “varied from year to year.”

A Department of Conservation (DOC) study (included in advice received by Jim Anderton) of sealion pup numbers shows they have steadily declined by 30% over the last eight years, and the current total sealion population of less than 12,000 is the second lowest ever.

“Jim Anderton says he is required to strike a balance between the economic benefits to the fishing industry and the impact on sealions. In this case it appears he has simply ignored the advice of his own officials and done what the fishing industry asked him to,” Mike Britton says.

Forest & Bird also rejects Jim Anderton’s statement that the jigging method of squid fishing – which does no harm to sealions - cannot be used around the Auckland Islands because of ocean conditions. Jigging is used to catch squid in similar conditions around the Falkland Islands.

Mike Britton says he welcomes Jim Anderton’s statement that he will monitor the population closely and take into account a DOC population management plan for the sealions before setting the next season’s kill limit before the end of the year. Forest &Bird also welcomes Jim Anderton’s acknowledgement that his decision to raise the limit was a one-off and looks forward to its reduction next season.

“The government is proud to advocate in international forums against commercial whaling on the grounds it is inhumane, yet it is permitting the killing of a vulnerable endemic marine mammal in New Zealand waters. We hope it will reconsider and set a sealion kill quota close to zero,” Mike Britton says.

ENDS

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