Auckland Islands squid fishery resumes
Fishing is resuming in the Auckland Islands squid fishery on the strict condition that the industry maintains a minimum 20 percent coverage of the fleet by Ministry of Fisheries observers to monitor sea lion deaths, Fisheries Minister Pete Hodgson said today.
Mr Hodgson closed the fishery on Saturday following an estimate that 79 sea lions had been killed in squid trawl nets by 23 March, exceeding the limit of 70 set by the Operational Plan for the fishery.
The estimate was based on a default "strike rate" for sea lions applied when the Auckland Islands squid fleet fails to maintain the minimum level of observers on board. For most of this season, which began in February, the required level of observer coverage has not been met.
The industry succeeded today with a High Court challenge to the closure of the fishery. The Court found fault with elements of the official advice preceding the Minister's decision to close the season.
"It has been agreed with the industry today that the fishery will reopen with strict conditions," Mr Hodgson said. "The most important of these, in my view, is that the industry will maintain from now on the minimum level of 20 percent observer coverage, or stop fishing as soon as it fails to do so."
In the absence of agreement between the Crown and the industry on an estimate of the number of sea lions killed to date this season, the Court has arrived at a figure of 30. The limit of 70 for the season remains in place.