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Sea lions

The problem

The New Zealand sea lion is New Zealand’s only endemic pinniped (seals and sea lions) and one of the rarest sea lions in the world. Over 95 percent of the breeding population of this species occurs on two small breeding sites in the Auckland Islands, in New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic zone.

The foraging range of New Zealand sea lions that inhabit the Auckland Islands overlaps the fishing grounds of the southern squid trawl fishery and leads to the accidental drowning of sea lions in trawl nets as they attempt to feed on the squid.

Current and future management

This interaction is managed by setting an annual limit on the number of sea lions that can be killed before the squid fishery is closed.

In order to set an annual mortality limit, the impact of fishing on the sea lion population is modelled. The scientific model allows different levels of sea lion mortality to be examined, both in terms of their biological effects on the sea lion population and the potential fishing opportunities foregone as a result of closing the squid fishery.

Having considered a range of sea lion mortality limits, the Minister of Fisheries selects a limit that he or she considers to be the most appropriate balance between allowing the squid resource to be utilised without creating an unacceptable risk to the sea lion population.

Updated : 16 November 2007