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Endangered sealion deaths show fishing changes needed

5 September 2013 – Wellington

Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

Endangered sealion deaths show fishing changes needed

Forest & Bird says the 16 New Zealand sealions killed in just three weeks by vessels trawling in the southern blue whiting fishery vindicate the organisation’s long-held position that any fishing methods that are known to kill sealions must not be used within the animals’ hunting grounds.

Populations of New Zealand sealions – also known as Hooker’s - are classed as being “nationally critical,” with just 10,000-12,000 left. Most breed in the Sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands.

“The Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, released a statement earlier today claiming the 16 deaths were “unprecedented”. But government officials have known for years that sealions were being killed in this fishery. The number has likely been underreported, due to the lack of full observer coverage.

“Forest & Bird has been calling for years for an observer to be placed on board every boat in the fishery,” says Forest & Bird Marine Advocate Katrina Subedar.

“To its credit, the Ministry finally acted on this advice this year. The increased coverage may well be the only reason why these deaths have come to light. And given it is only early in the season, it is fair to assume that if nothing is done, the death toll could be far, far higher.

“The universal use of Sealion Exclusion Devices (SLEDs) is simply not enough. Nothing is known about how many sealions survive after passing through a SLED. For instance, they may drown after being dragged in the net too long to return to the surface. And because its body wouldn’t ever be brought aboard a ship, its death would go uncounted.

“MPI must act decisively, now. If they don’t, New Zealand and New Zealanders will lose yet another part of what makes this country so special,” Katrina Subedar says.


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