Auckland Islands squid fishery season better
13 June 2008
This year’s Auckland Islands squid fishery has resulted in an estimated 10 fewer sea lion deaths compared with last year, Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton announced today.
Jim Anderton said that last season there were 56 assumed sea lion deaths, this year there were 46 assumed deaths. Five confirmed sea lion deaths were actually reported.
Fisheries observers, who oversaw around half of all fishing activity, reported 71 seabirds being accidentally caught, including petrels and albatrosses. Several of these accidental captures were not fatal and the birds were successfully released and considered highly likely to survive.
The $50 million a year squid fishery around the sub-Antarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands (SQU6T) operates 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. To manage this, each year the Minister of Fisheries sets a fishing-related mortality limit (FRML), a maximum allowable number of sea lion deaths.
Jim Anderton said that this year, the FRML was set at 81 animals from a population of around 12,000, and the fishery would have been closed once that many sea lions were assumed to have been killed.
“However, this year, the fishery finished at the end of April, without having come close to the allowable limit.”
Seabirds such as albatrosses and petrels are attracted to squid fishing vessels by the offal and fish scraps that are discarded from the vessels when they process their catch or haul in their nets. The birds can become distracted feeding on the fish scraps and get hit by the heavy steel cables that tow trawl nets or they can dive down to feed on squid in the trawl nets, become tangled and drown.
Jim Anderton said that to reduce the potential for harm to seabirds, we have introduced mandatory minimum steps that fishing vessels must take to minimise their impact on seabirds.
All deepwater trawlers are required to use devices behind their boats to scare birds away from the heavy trawl cables. Additional work is being done to ensure that all trawlers, both inshore and offshore, manage offal and fish trimmings to reduce the attraction of birds to the vessels.
“No one wants to see sea lions or birds being harmed or killed. It is very pleasing to see fewer sea lions being caught this season, and I encourage the industry to keep working to develop lasting solutions to seabird bycatch.”
Jim Anderton said the fishing industry had improved its methods for reducing the bycatch of sea lions and all vessels operating in the fishery are using an approved sea lion exclusion device (SLED) to give sea lions a chance to escape the trawl nets.
The SLEDs were all audited before the season started to see that they had been fitted correctly before the squid boats sailed. Ongoing inspections were carried out by Fisheries Ministry staff over the course of the season to ensure the SLEDs were being used correctly and had not become damaged in any way. Improvements were made during the season to ensure they were operating as effectively as possible.
“Government and the fishing industry have put in a concerted effort over several years to lower the sea lion by-catch in the southern squid fishery. The performance of the SQU6T fishery this year shows that the collaborative approach is working.”
The government places observers onboard a large number of fishing vessels in the SQU6T fishery. This season, around half of all trawls undertaken in the fishery were observed.
The observers are tasked with watching the vessel’s fishing activity, reporting any accidental captures of animals like sea lions and sea birds, checking that vessels are complying with regulated bycatch mitigation measures and gathering scientific data.
A series of 33 photographs taken by fisheries observers showing seabirds and sea lions that have been accidentally caught in the fishery can be downloaded below.
Select an image to see a larger version: