Only seven weeks into the squid fishing season, a female sea lion has been killed in a trawl net, despite the fishing industry and Ministry of Primary Industries' assurances that squid boats don’t endanger the New Zealand sea lion population.
“New Zealand sea lions are critically endangered and without urgent action to reduce threats to their population, especially breeding females, we may be the last generation to coexist with this species,” says Forest & Bird Marine Advocate Katrina Goddard.
“It has only taken seven weeks for an official observer to witness a drowned female sea lion in a squid trawl net.
“The fishing industry and the Ministry of Primary Industries routinely assure the people of New Zealand that Sea Lion Exclusion Devices (SLEDs) allow sea lions to escape trawl nets unharmed, but they refuse to put up any scientific evidence to support this opinion," says Ms Goddard.
“What we do know is that sea lions are killed in trawl nets, and there is no evidence to show SLEDs don’t just eject dead and injured animals, preventing them from being accounted for by official observers.”
If a female sea lion is fatally wounded or drowned in a net or by the SLED, not only will she die, so will her pup waiting onshore and, because she is often already pregnant, so will next year’s pup as well.
“If the Ministry of Primary Industries and the Department of Conservation are serious about saving this unique species, they should stop sheltering the fishing industry from having to prove SLEDs work, and put a moratorium on trawling in the area next to the Auckland Island marine mammal sanctuary until that research is available.”