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Conference calls for end to sea lion deaths

Conference calls for end to sea lion deaths

Forest and Bird has called on the Government to require squid fishers to use a sea lion-friendly fishing technique in New Zealand’s southern waters. The call was made at the November Council of the Society held at Upper Hutt this weekend and follows ongoing sea lion deaths in the southern squid fishery.

Delegates from Forest and Bird’s 54 branches voted unanimously to endorse the resolution, which called on the Government to require the use of squid jiggers that don’t kill sea lions.

“The Government should end the killing of threatened sea lions by requiring the use of jiggers. This would be a major step forward in their protection,” said Forest and Bird Executive member and marine mammal scientist Dr Liz Slooten.

“There is no need to kill sea lions in the ocean around the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands because squid jiggers would largely eliminate the by-kill of sea lions. Squid fishers in New Zealand’s southern waters currently use trawlers that killed over 100 threatened sea lions in the last year,” she said.

“Forest and Bird is disappointed that Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope has not yet required the squid fishing industry to use sea lion-friendly jiggers. Instead, last Friday, he announced that the squid fishers will be allowed to kill up to 115 sea lions over the next year,” she said.

“Over 85 percent of the squid trawl catch is taken by foreign trawlers from Korea, Russia, Ukraine, Poland and Japan chartered to New Zealand companies. The New Zealand Government is currently putting these trawlers ahead of New Zealand’s own endemic sea lion,” she said.


The Resolution of the November Council of Forest and Bird was:

Forest and Bird calls on the Government to require the use of jigging as the sole fishing method for the southern squid fishery to eliminate New Zealand sea lion by-catch to allow population recovery of this threatened species.

Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope has decided to allow 115 sea lions to be killed in 2005. Last year his predecessor Pete Hodgson set a limit of 62 allowable sea lion deaths, although the High Court later increased the allowable kill to 124 sea lions.

An extended marine mammal sanctuary around the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands would safeguard threatened New Zealand sea lions without preventing squid fishing. Each year dozens of sea lions die a painful, terror-filled death in 150-200 metre wide trawl nets of the Auckland Islands squid fishery. Sea lion friendly fishing methods such as jigging would prevent this.

New Zealand fishers have previously jigged around the Auckland Islands. Jiggers are used in the squid fishery around the Falkland Islands. A ban on trawling would create an incentive for New Zealand squid fishers to use jiggers. Jiggers are a standard fishing method to catch squid which rely on bright lights, jigging machines and multi-barbed hooks.

New Zealand sea lions are protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act. However a special exemption under the Act allows the fishing industry to kill sea lions in the course of fishing.

Sea lions used to range all around New Zealand with breeding in Nelson and in the far north but are now restricted to sub-Antarctic Islands. 90 percent of the sea lion population breeds on the Auckland Islands. The main rookery is on Dundas Island which is the size of two football fields. Around 2500 pups are produced each year from a mature population of around 7000.

New Zealand sea lions can dive to over 550 metres and they are the deepest diving of all fur seals and sea lions.

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