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Minister urged not to increasesea lion kill quota

6 April 2006 - Wellington

Media release for immediate use

Minister urged not to increase NZ sea lion ‘kill quota’

Forest & Bird has urged Fisheries Minister Hon. Jim Anderton not to approve a last minute 55% increase in the annual ‘kill quota’ for protected NZ sea lions in the southern squid fishery in a submission made on the eve of his decision, due out tomorrow.

“There is no new scientific evidence to justify a mid-season increase in the annual NZ sea lion kill quota from 97 to 150 animals,” said Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell. “In fact the latest NZ sea lion population estimates are the second lowest in 10 years and last season’s pup production was 15% down on the previous two years.”

“The NZ sea lion death toll could instead be dramatically reduced to near zero by applying alternative fishing methods such as using jiggers with bright lights,” he said.

Forest & Bird made its submission in response to the Minister’s March announcement that he would consider allowing the squid fishing industry to increase the number of threatened NZ sea lions it kills this year in the southern squid fishery to 150. This would be a 55% increase over NZ sea lion 'kill quota' of 97 that was set at the beginning of the season and would constitute the highest sea lion kill quota ever set.

“Forest & Bird understands the Minister has received more than 1200 submissions opposing any increase in the current NZ sea lion ‘kill quota’. In contrast, only a few are likely to have been made in support of increasing the ‘kill quota’, said Mr Hackwell.

This will be the first time that there has been a mid-season increase in the NZ sea lion ‘kill quota’ under the 1996 Fisheries Act. The only previous mid-season change was in 1998 when the discovery of very high NZ sea lion pup deaths led to a reduction in the ‘kill quota’.

“Forest and Bird is concerned that as a new Minister of Fisheries, Mr Anderton is setting a precedent by considering a mid-season increase in the ‘kill quota,”Mr Hackwell said. “This mid-season review gives the squid fishing industry the message that threatened NZ sea lions are expendable if there are more squid to be caught. On this basis there is no incentive for the squid fishers to improve their techniques or use different fishing methods which avoid killing sea lions. In fact it does quite the opposite.”

”Jigging offers a safer alternative and is used successfully in the Falkland Islands,” he said. “It would also result in better quality squid being brought to market because trawling does more damage to the squid caught.”

"Because over half of the sea lions killed each season are pregnant females, their pups on land and the fertilised embryo of next year's pup also die," said Mr Hackwell.

Notes to Editors

1. The New Zealand sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri) is the only endemic NZ pinniped and is listed as a Vulnerable species on the 2004 IUCN (World Conservation Union) Red List of Species Threatened with Extinction.

2. Over 2,000 NZ sea lions have been killed in the Auckland Islands squid fishery since 1980.

3. Each year for the past eleven years the Minister of Fisheries has set a ‘kill quota’ for the number of NZ sea lions the squid fishing industry is allowed to drown in its fishing nets.

4. The first kill quota set in 1994 was 16 protected New Zealand sea lions. In 2003 the quota was set at 62, however the fishing industry took legal action to permit increased sea lion killing. As a result, the final number of protected New Zealand sea lions killed in 2003 was 144.

5. Jigging involves the use of small continuous-loop hooked lines which do not pose the same risk to non-target species as trawl nets.

6. Sea lions were killed for pelts by sealers in the early 1800s and reduced to very low levels. It is likely that the population has not yet recovered to pre-European levels. Evidence indicates that NZ sea lions bred in Northland, the Nelson area and on the Chatham Islands in the last 1,000 years but were eliminated by Maori harvests prior to European sealing


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