Forest & Bird says NO to squid trawling around our endangered sea lions

28 Jul 2015

We wouldn’t allow a kill quota for kakapo or kiwi,
so why are we allowing the fishing industry to kill our sea lions?

New Zealand Sea Lion. Photo Craig McKenzieOur NZ sea lions are the rarest sea lions in the world, but new research has highlighted they’re more in danger of extinction than ever before. The largest breeding colony found around the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands have declined by approximately 50% since 1998.

Our sea lions have the same threat status as our kakapo and Maui’s dolphins, and their status was recently upgraded by the International Union for Conservation of Nature from vulnerable to endangered sparking more international concern for the survival of the species.

Forest & Bird’s Marine Conservation Advocate Katrina Goddard says alarming mortality rates for sea lion pups is worrying, but says the focus should be on protecting adult female sea lions, rather than just prioritizing pup survival.

Published research, released today by Otago University and endorsed by Forest & Bird says that reducing pup mortality rate is unlikely to reverse the decline in the species. The government’s focus is largely on reducing pup mortality rates by further investigating disease.

Katrina Goddard says the Otago study showed that survival of the adult female New Zealand sea lions is the key to managing their future. She says Forest & Bird has always supported robust science, and it clearly indicates that the biggest threat to the sea lion population are fisheries impacts, both direct (by-catch) and indirect (resource competition).

“The issue is that the squid fishing season which operates in the sub-Antarctic waters coincides with the NZ sea lion breeding and nursing period. This means that any mother accidentally killed by trawling nets whilst foraging for food has a hungry pup waiting for her back on shore. The by- catch of adult females in fishing nets needs to be immediately stopped if we want to protect the future of this species,” said Katrina Goddard.

She says that while the area around the Auckland Island is a Marine Mammal Sanctuary, it doesn’t extend far enough offshore to protect the waters that these sea lions forage in
“The most frustrating thing is that it’s so easily fixed. Fishing trawlers can catch squid elsewhere around the coast – they don’t have to be in the same location as our endangered sea lions – and if they changed from trawling to jigging – there would be zero deaths of sea lions and our sea birds,” said Katrina Goddard.

“It’s a no-brainer and I don’t understand why the Government is allowing this to happen, New Zealand’s clean green sustainable reputation is in jeopardy. We wouldn’t allow a kill quota for kakapo or kiwi, so why are we allowing the industry to kill our endangered sea lions?”

Forest & Bird is calling for immediate action by the government to save our NZ sea lion.
“We’re not saying no to fishing, we’re saying stop trawling for squid around the Auckland islands or replace trawling with jigging, which does not kill sea lions or our threatened sea birds. It doesn’t address the competition for food but it likely have an immediate reduction on the number of sea lion being killed,” said Katrina Goddard.

Forest & Bird is urging all New Zealanders to get behind the New Zealand sea lion and make the government listen and take immediate action. You can lobby your local MP and raise this concern, or send an email directly to Nathan Guy our Minister for Primary Industries and Maggie Barry our Minister for Conservation.

For further information please contact Katrina Goddard 021 426984
Or Media and Communications Manager Jo Priestley 021 1211 464