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Minister reduces limit for NZ sea lion deaths

12 November, 2004

Minister reduces limit for New Zealand sea lion deaths

Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope has reduced the number of fishing-related New Zealand sea lion deaths allowed before the southern squid trawl fishery will be closed.

The Minister has set the maximum number of fishing-related sea lion deaths for the 2004-2005 fishing year at 115.

Last season a limit of 124 was accepted by the Court of Appeal after the squid fishing industry successfully challenged a decision to set the limit at 62. The southern squid trawl fishery operates around the Auckland Islands, from February to April or May, or until the fishing related mortality limit for sea lions is reached.

The New Zealand sea lion – formerly known as the Hooker's sea lion – is classified as a category B species under the Marine Mammals Protection Act, meaning it is not immediately threatened with extinction but is potentially vulnerable to population decline. Sea lions eat squid and are at risk of capture and drowning when they follow squid into trawl nets.

Mr Benson-Pope said he believed this would be the last year a Fisheries Minister would have to walk the tight rope of balancing the use of the fishery against the need to prevent sea lion deaths.

"The Department of Conservation is developing a Population Management Plan for New Zealand sea lions as provided under the Marine Mammals Protection Act," said Mr Benson-Pope.

"From next year this will provide a multi-year management regime, rather than the current annual management plan. It will establish a maximum fishing-related mortality limit for sea lions and could include advice on measures to mitigate fishing related deaths."

ENDS

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