Ministry of Fisheries proposes fishing industry free to kill endangered sea lions

 The Ministry of Fisheries is proposing that the southern squid fishery should have no limits on how many critically endangered New Zealand sea lions it can kill.

“The sea lion population is in decline, and the numbers of pups born have fallen 49 per cent since 1998,” said Forest & Bird Marine Conservation Advocate Katrina Subedar

“The squid fishery around the sub-Antarctic islands where the sea lions breed has been identified as the most likely cause of the sea lion population decline.”

The Ministry of Fisheries’ proposal that no kill quota limit be set is based on the assumption that sea lion exclusion devices (SLEDs) in the squid trawl nets are operating as intended.

“All the science shows that this assumption is unproven,” Katrina Subedar said. “As yet there is no evidence that SLEDs are operating fully as intended. We have no proof that sea lions that get out of the devices survive the encounter.

“The ministry has a legislative duty to minimise fisheries-related bykill. Their proposal flies in the face of this duty and could condemn this species to an inevitable extinction.

“Forest & Bird wants alternative fishing methods such as jigging adopted, which would mean effectively a zero kill quota for sea lions. This would help the recovery of this protected species.”

The proposal has been made by the ministry in its annual advice to the Minister of Fisheries. This advice is usually released in early October, but was this year delayed until after the election. It was released late on Friday on the ministry website without any notification.