Fisheries Minister sets cautious sea lion limit
16 December 2009
Fisheries Minister Phil Heatley today announced his decision on management measures for the 2009-10 Auckland Islands squid trawl fishery (SQU6T). This includes setting a fishing related mortality limit (FRML) for sea lions that may be accidentally caught by fishing trawlers.
The maximum number of accidental fishing related sea lion deaths for the 2010 fishing season will be set at 76 sea lions.
Last year the limit was set at 113 but was then voluntarily reduced to 95 by the fishing industry after the latest research showing a decrease in sea lion pup numbers became available.
“I was very mindful of the recent and significant decline in the number of sea lion pups and I have taken a particularly cautious approach and set a much lower limit than last year” Mr Heatley said.
“This is always a hard decision to make; I have to balance the need to protect our native sea lions with my obligation under the Fisheries Act to allow for fishing of the squid resource around the Auckland Islands” said Mr Heatley.
For the year to October squid fisheries bought in $73 million in export revenues for the country.
“I carefully considered the best scientific and management information available as well as submissions from the fishing industry, environmental groups and the public before making my decision. I believe my decision is cautious and will allow for squid fishing while ensuring this fishing activity does not impact the long term future of the sea lion population.”
The squid fishing industry voluntarily uses sea lion exclusion devices (SLEDS), which allow sea lions to escape from trawl nets. There is research currently underway to improve the information on how effective SLEDs are at allowing sea lions to escape from nets.
“I want to have the best information I can get on how effective the SLEDs are. I expect this research to be completed in time for it to be part of the decision process for the 2010/11 squid season. I am determined to make future decisions with this important science considered” Mr Heatley said.
Before the squid fleet leave port their SLEDs will be audited to ensure they are installed correctly and meet the required standard. In addition, SLEDs will be regularly checked by Ministry of Fisheries observers and Fishery Officers throughout the season to ensure they are being used correctly.
Last fishing season four sea lions were reported as accidentally killed last year, two on trawlers carrying Ministry of Fisheries observers and two on trawlers not carrying observers.
“I would like to thank the squid fishing industry for their continuing co-operation with government and ongoing efforts to improve the fleet’s performance against the operational plan” said Mr Heatley.