2008/09 squid trawl measures set
19 December 2008
The Ministry of Fisheries Chief Executive, Wayne McNee, has today announced the management measures for the 2008-09 Auckland Islands squid trawl fishery (SQU6T).
The SQU6T fishery operates between February and May each year and is estimated to be worth some $80 million. Arrow squid is one of New Zealand’s largest and most valuable fish exports.
The announcement today includes the setting of a fishing related mortality limit (FRML) for sea lions that may be accidentally caught by fishing trawlers. The fishery will be closed once the maximum number of fishing related sea lion deaths for the 2009 fishing season reaches 113.
These decisions have been made by the Minister of Fisheries, Hon Phil Heatley, under the Fisheries Act 1996.
“The Fisheries Act requires me to allow for squid fishing while ensuring the sustainability of the sea lion population. I believe my decision meets my dual obligations,” Mr Heatley says.
The Minister says he has erred on the side of caution when setting the sea lion limit for the upcoming squid trawl season. The latest scientific analysis and the recommendation from the Ministry of Fisheries indicated that the Minister could have set the limit as high as 249 sea lions. However, the Minister considered it was appropriate to act cautiously.
“Minister Heatley carefully considered the best scientific advice available, as well as submissions received from the fishing industry and the public. This is a conservative decision and allows the sea lion population of about 16,000 to be maintained,” says Mr McNee.
The squid fishing industry voluntarily uses sea lion exclusion devices (SLEDS), which allow sea lions to escape from trawl nets.
Before the trawlers leave port the SLEDs will be audited to ensure they are installed correctly and are as effective as possible in minimising accidental captures of sea lions. In addition, SLEDs will be regularly checked by MFish observers and fishery officers throughout the season to ensure they are being used correctly.
“I congratulate the squid fishing industry on their improved performance against the operational plan. I look forward to this level of performance continuing and even improving over the coming season. I also strongly encourage vessel operators to ensure their crew fully understand the importance of reporting all sea lion captures,” Mr McNee says.