Forest & Bird alarmed at second sea lion death

Independent conservation organisation Forest & Bird is calling for the squid fishing industry to use more sustainable methods after the death of a second endangered New Zealand sea lion in a fishing net in the first five weeks of the squid fishing season.

The death of the first sea lion this season in the Sub-Antarctic waters south of New Zealand was reported on 7 February and news of the second death was announced on 28 February.

New Zealand sea lions are one of the world’s rarest sea lions, and their population is declining.

Forest & Bird Marine Conservation Advocate Katrina Goddard says the squid fishing industry could switch to more sustainable fishing methods. “If the companies want to continue fishing in the same Sub-Antarctic waters where the sea lions feed, a better method is jigging – which uses hooks.

“Sea lions can be trapped in the large squid fishing nets, and it is difficult for some to escape from the nets through sea lion exclusion devices (SLEDs). The ongoing concerns with SLEDS means we don’t know how many sea lion deaths go unnoticed,” she says.

Forest & Bird has learnt that fewer sea lion pups were born in the Sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands this year but the Minister of Conservation has refused to release the figures. “We would like sea lion numbers to grow, and it is critical that the squid fishing industry does not cause any more deaths.

“The two deaths are especially alarming because they were both females. They are likely to have a dependent pup on shore and be pregnant so three lives are lost each time,” says Katrina Goddard.