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Fisheries Minister reduces allowable sea-lion kill

Fisheries Minister reduces allowable sea-lion kill

Fisheries Minister Hon. Jim Anderton has taken a step in the right direction by reducing the number of New Zealand sea lions that can be killed by trawlers in the Auckland Island squid fishery by nearly 20 percent.

“While this is a step in the right direction there is no need for any sea lions to be killed by trawlers in the squid fishery,” said Forest and Bird’s senior researcher Barry Weeber.

“The Fisheries Minister could have required the squid fishing industry to use sea lion-friendly jiggers that catch next to no sea lions. By doing this, he could have set a limit of sea lion deaths that was close to zero,” he said.

“In 2003, the fishing industry recognized that jigging was an environmentally friendly means of fishing. There’s really no excuse for not using sea lion-friendly jiggers. We will be looking to see a move towards sea lion-friendly jigging in the proposed Sea Lion Population Management Plan,” he said.

“It is time for the Government to put the interests of New Zealand’s only endemic sea lion ahead of foreign trawlers,” Mr Weeber said.

“Sea lion numbers have been declining over the last 8 years. The last season pup numbers were lowest since systematic estimates started and over 1000 (30%) below numbers born in 1998.”


Decision on sea-lion bycatch

New Fisheries Minister Mr Anderton has reduced the limit to 97 sea lions to be killed in 2006, down from 115. Last year his predecessor David Benson-Pope set a limit of 115, which was nearly double the previous limit originally agreed in 2003.

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Jigging in New Zealand

Jigging is a fishing method that uses hooks rather than nets to catch squid and kills next to no sea lions.

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.

According to Big Fish #2 published by the Seafood Industry Council in 2003

“It is a strange conundrum. In an era where environmental sustainability has become the catch cry to ensure a future for commercial fishing, squid jigging – the most environmentally friendly fishing method of all – has been shut out of the action.”


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.

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.

Protecting sea lions

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.

An extended marine mammal sanctuary around the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands would safeguard threatened New Zealand sea lions without preventing squid 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 breed 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.

The pup numbers born in 2004/05 were 15 percent less than the previous two years and over 1000 or 30 percent below those born in 1997-98. A recent DoC technical report commented that this drop was of “serious concern for New Zealand sea lion species” (Chilvers November 2005).

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