Sea lion management based on expert science
18 June 2010
The Ministry of Fisheries will continue to closely manage the impact of fishing on the New Zealand sea lion population using the best available science.
A mortality limit is set every year based on a comprehensive sea lion population model. This model has been developed by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and has been extensively peer reviewed by independent scientists both from within New Zealand and internationally.
“This is always a hard decision to make, we have to balance the need to protect our native sea lions with the legal obligation under the Fisheries Act to allow for fishing of the squid resource around the Auckland Islands” said Ministry of Fisheries Chief Executive Wayne McNee.
In addition, the squid fishing industry uses sea lion exclusion devices (SLEDS), which allow sea lions to escape from trawl nets.
In the 2010 squid fishing season 3 sea lions have been reported as accidentally caught by trawlers with one of them released alive.
The Department of Conservation has previously carried out research on sea lion populations in the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands that showed a decline in the number of sea lion pups and a reduction in the number of female sea lions coming ashore. It is not known what caused this decline.
The latest research has showed an increase in pup numbers of around 20%.
“While we are confident any decline was not caused by fishing, we have taken these figures into account when setting management measures and will continue to make sure the impact of fishing is very closely managed” said Mr McNee.
The Auckland Islands squid fishery operates between February and May each year and is worth around $80 million. Arrow squid is one of New Zealand’s largest and most valuable fish exports.