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Forest & Bird says a critically endangered New Zealand sea lion has drowned in a squid trawl net, and its death is further proof that so-called escape devices in commercial fishing nets don’t always work.

Forest & Bird Oceans Advocate, Anton van Helden says “This death is a sad loss to the population of the world’s rarest sea lion. With less than 12,000 animals remaining, each life is important. In fact the loss of a female is particularly hard as she may have a nursing pup ashore, and be pregnant with next year’s pup; a loss of 3 animals in one hit.”

“The fishing industry introduced Sea Lion Exclusion Devices (SLEDs), to remove observable by-catch. There is no evidence to show SLEDs don’t just eject dead and injured animals, preventing them from being accounted for by official observers. We have no way of knowing the actual number of sea lions that pass through the SLEDs."

Forest & Bird has long campaigned for a transition to jigging in the squid fishery, a fishing method that is sea lion friendly.

MPI has said in an official correspondence to Forest & Bird that it is possible to jig for squid around the Auckland Islands.

"Industry arguments about it being not economic and unsafe are anecdotal, and are at odds with research that shows jigging fisheries operate in similar sea conditions in other parts of the Southern Ocean. We need to take a precautionary approach to save our only endemic sea lion," says Mr van Helden.

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