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Science Drives Proposal to Change Squid Fishery

5 December 2011

Science Drives Proposal to Change Squid Fishery by-Catch Limits

The Government’s proposal to remove the tow limits imposed on squid fishing to prevent sea lion captures is based on assiduous fact-finding work driven by MAF and undertaken by a range of independent national and international science providers, says the Deepwater Group of New Zealand and the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council.

“Based on the new scientific evidence presented by MAF, it is now accepted that there is no evidence that sea lions sustain severe trauma from interactions with a SLED (Sea Lion Exclusion Device – equipment enabling sea lions to escape out of trawling nets),” says Richard Wells of the Deepwater Group of New Zealand.

Mr Wells said that over the past few years both new information and a significant shift in the interpretation of information relating to the efficacy of the SLEDs in the squid fisheries had debunked previous theories that SLED use was a key contributor to sea lion deaths.

“The work shows that previous estimates of sea lion deaths attributable to SLEDs were greatly exaggerated.”

Mr Wells said that a significant amount of industry effort had gone into this issue since 2006, including daily monitoring of squid fleet operations, employing full time operational managers to oversee continuous improvement of SLED operations, and collaboration with overseas experts on ways to reduce harm to sea lions.

“As an industry we have focused considerable time and resource on successful methods that ensure the occasional sea lions that enter our nets are able to escape unharmed, and now the new science backs that up, estimating the majority of sea lions escape alive and unharmed.”

Mr Bodeker, CE of the New Zealand Seafood Council said that that sea lion pup count declines are of concern to the industry and the challenge now is for scientists to establish the real reason for the pup declines and to see if a remedy can be identified. That will include re-examining diseases that caused such large reductions in previous years.

“Of key importance to the seafood industry and to the public is that that the fishery still has the stringent requirement to carefully manage interactions and maintain the rigour of management standards achieved over the last several years.

“For example that means that continued high levels of observer coverage will be applied to ensure best practices are maintained and where possible improved.” Mr Bodeker said that the seafood industry will continue to work with and support MAF and DOC in relevant monitoring, management measures and research to ensure sea lions have the best possible chance of maintaining or improving their population status.


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