MPI & industry keep quiet on two more NZ sea lion deaths

Forest & Bird says the Ministry for Primary Industries and the fishing industry is once again playing underhanded games, this time over two newly reported NZ sea lion deaths.

The environmental organisation says MPI and the fishing industry appear to have been colluding by withholding news of two recent sea lion deaths in fishing nets, until after a sector-wide workshop on how to protect the world's rarest sea lion had concluded.

Two sea lions were observed killed in squid trawl nets the week ending May 14th, but this information was withheld from environmental and mana whenua representatives who were participating alongside government and the fishing industry in a NZ sea lion management advisory forum (16th & 18th May.

“Both MPI and the fishing industry knew of the deaths but kept quiet knowing it would strengthen our call for better regulation of the fishing industry. Instead of fronting up, the fishing industry along with MPI sat on this news and continued to insist their squid trawl nets don't harm the world's rarest sea lion population,” says Forest & Bird marine mammal expert Katrina Goddard.

“This collusion between the government and the fishing industry shows how little MPI's culture has progressed since last year's Archilles report scandal. Once again, MPI is caught protecting destructive fishing industry practices at the expense of New Zealand's endangered wildlife.

“It's a huge kick in the guts to contribute time, expertise, and expense to a specialist workshop on managing threats to the nationally critical NZ sea lion, only to find that crucial information has been withheld from us by other workshop participants”.

“MPI, like a number of other government agencies, have been captured by industry agendas, they're enabling environmental destruction, and they continually fail to protect nature under their care. The consequences of this are uncontrolled fish dumping, opposition to marine reserves, poor law enforcement and in this instance a failure to reduce marine mammal by-kill in the fishing industry.”

“If this government really wants to stop the decline of New Zealand's threatened species, it needs to put an end to their agencies' culture of industry collusion. We need an overhaul of MPI whose policies and actions are driving many of our native species to extinction, and MPI must stop sheltering the fishing industry from having to use proven and safe fishing technology."

Notes for journalists:

Sea Lion Exclusion Devices (SLEDs)

The main preventable threat to Auckland Island sea-lions is nursing females being killed or injured in trawl nets or so-called sea lion exclusion devices (SLEDs). The fishing industry claim SLEDs give sea lions a chance to escape trawl nets unharmed, but there is little evidence to support this. One thing the SLEDs do achieve is getting rid of the evidence of sea lions being in the nets.