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Commercial southern squid trawl fishery (SQU6T) overlaps with the foraging range of sea lions. (Photo: Stockfile/FIS)

New squid fishing plan intends to drop sea lions' death

Click on the flag for more information about New Zealand NEW ZEALAND
Wednesday, August 09, 2017, 01:40 (GMT + 9)

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is looking for public feedback on management settings for the squid fishery around the Auckland Islands to manage interactions with New Zealand sea lions.

MPI's director fisheries management Dave Turner explained the decision stems from the fact that New Zealand sea lions have been classified as nationally critical.

"The commercial southern squid trawl fishery (SQU6T) overlaps with the foraging range of sea lions that breed at the Auckland Islands, which can lead to the accidental capture of sea lions in fishing gear,” Minister Turner pointed out.

The official stressed the need to balance the importance of the squid fishery – which employs hundreds of New Zealanders and brought in NZD 68 million (USD 50 million) in export earnings last year – with the need to conserve these important New Zealand mammals.

He explained that MPI closely monitors the fishery with more than 80 per cent of vessels operating there carrying government observers in the past 3 years, which helps ensure they get good information about how the fishery is operating.

    

"It's important to note that fishing is just one of a number of threats sea lions are facing. The biggest threat is disease. We need to look at all the threats and do what is right for the sea lions. That's why MPI and DOC [Department of Conservation] are implementing the New Zealand Sea lion/rāpoka threat management plan,” Turner pointed out.

Environmental organisation WWF-New Zealand expressed cautious satisfaction about the new plan announced by the goverenment.

WWF-New Zealand campaigner David Tong argues that the sea lions are a national treasure – but for too long the government has made unscientific assumptions in deciding how much fishing is allowed in their habitat, adding that the recognition of uncertainty over the impact of fishing in this draft plan is a welcome change.

Tong stated that the squid trawl fishery uses Sea Lion Exclusion Devices (SLEDs), but he claimed that it remains unknown how many sea lions come into contact with fishing nets, and how well SLEDs work.

“New Zealand sea lions are affected by disease and food shortages, but accidental killing in fishing nets is known to be the biggest human threat to Aotearoa’s endangered sea lions,” Tong said. “It is also the problem that we are most able to solve.”

The environmentalist stated that what is now needed is a precautionary approach that reduces the number of sea lions allowed to be accidentally killed each year and investment in research to better understand the impact of fishing.

“WWF urges New Zealanders to speak out for sea lions and make submissions calling on the Ministry of Primary Industries to get this critical research done and take a precautionary approach to fishing in NZ sea lions’ habitat in the meantime,” Tong concluded.
 
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