Improved environmental performance in southern squid fishery
"Environmental performance has improved in the southern squid fishery, with fewer sea lion deaths this year," Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton announced today.
Last season there were 110 assumed sea lion deaths, this year there were 56 assumed deaths, from a population of around 12,000.
“The fishing industry has improved its mitigation methods and all vessels operating in the fishery are using an approved sea lion exclusion device to give the sea lions a chance to escape the trawl nets," Jim Anderton said.
Ministry of Fisheries’ staff inspect excluder devices to see that they have been fitted correctly before the squid boats sail.
The southern squid fishery operates around the Auckland and Campbell islands, from February through to April or May, or until the fishing-related mortality limit for sea lions is reached. New Zealand sea lions eat squid and are at risk of drowning when they chase squid into trawl nets.
Each year the Minister of Fisheries sets a fishing-related mortality limit (FRML), an allowable number of sea lion deaths, before closing the southern squid fishery. Fishing stopped on 13 May 2007 and the FRML count was 56 sea lions assumed killed. Only eight sighted and confirmed sea lion deaths were reported. Fishing activity was not as intense this year, so sea lions were less likely to be caught.
“Government and the fishing industry have put in a concerted effort to lower the sea lion by-catch in the southern squid fishery. This is an excellent example of Government and industry working together," Jim Anderton said.
“The success of this process has meant that a similar collaborative approach will be adopted to manage the upcoming winter hoki fishery that starts in July.”
Fishing related mortality limit (FRML) of 93 sea lions sufficiently manages any sustainability risk to the sea lion population.
The FRML is monitored by keeping track of fishing effort, which has an assumed level of sea lion mortality. Fishing effort is assessed in terms of the number of tows undertaken in the fishery e.g. If the sea lion strike rate is 5.3% (or 4.24% if vessels are using SLEDs) then 100 tows would mean that 5.3 (4.24) sea lions should be counted against the FRML.
Therefore the fishery is not closed when 93 sea lions have been observed as having been killed but when there has been sufficient fishing activity so that 93 sea lions are assumed to have been killed.
The New Zealand sea lion, formerly known as the Hooker's sea lion, is classified as threatened under the Marine Mammals Protection Act, meaning it is not immediately threatened with extinction but is potentially vulnerable to population decline. Its threatened status is largely due to the fact that it primarily breeds in one place – the Auckland Islands.
The southern squid fishery is New Zealand’s biggest seafood export earner. In 2005 and 2006 it brought in just over $286 million in foreign exchange earnings.