New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries plans to allow more sea lion killing.
MEDIA RELEASE Forest & Bird,
17th August 2003 - Wellington, NZ
A Ministry of Fisheries' proposal to allow the squid fishery to kill more than double the number of threatened New Zealand sea lions should be rejected, Forest and Bird said today.
"A significant number of sea lion pups have died in three of the last five years," said Society spokesperson, Barry Weeber.
"Deaths through fishing have compounded the tragedy in 1998 when disease swept through the sea lion population. In 2002 the number of pups dropped by over 30%. There was some recovery in numbers this year but over 20 percent of the pups died from diseases by the end of February," he said.
Now, instead of taking a precautionary approach, the Ministry wants to double the number of sea lions that the squid fishery can drown," Mr Weeber said.
"Earlier this year, the fishing industry took a court case to stop the Minister of Fisheries from protecting sea lions by closing the fishery.
They achieved an injunction but the case was never fully heard and should be revisited by Fisheries Minister Pete Hodgson and Conservation Minister Chris
Carter," he said.
"All vessels in this fishery must have official observers. This will prevent a debate over the number of sea lions captured, ensure honest reporting and allow for a better assessment of the marine mammal exclusion device added to trawl nets," he said.
"In 2002 the Minister admitted that operators within the SQU6T (Arrow Squid Fishery) fishery have not complied with several elements of the operational plan." This year the fishery had poor observer coverage. In the first four weeks less than 8 percent of trawls were observed. One week had no observers whatsoever and another had less than four trawls observed," he said.
"Since the squid fishery started in the early 1980s over 2000 sea lions have died. It is not the only fishery that kills sea lions - they have also been drowned in the scampi, oreos and orange roughy fisheries around the Auckland Islands," he said.
Mr Weeber said objections to rules for lower sea lion deaths on the grounds that it would prevent the industry from catching their full quota of squid over-played the effects of such rules and showed an irresponsible attitude towards the marine environment.
"The Ministers of Conservation and Fisheries should urgently develop a management plan to deal with Auckland Islands fisheries. This must include further consideration of an extension of the current marine mammal sanctuary out to 100 kilometres off the Auckland Islands," he said.
Mr Weeber said the industry must consider using alternatives to trawling for catching squid. "Trawling is an indiscriminate and destructive fishing technique. Jiggers which catch squid elsewhere with less damage to the marine environment should be trialled around the Auckland Island," he said.