Forest & Bird says New Zealand’s sea lions are in serious trouble, but the Sea Lion Threat Management Plan released today does not address the fishing industry’s deadly impact on the species.
The conservation organisation says NZ sea lions are the world’s rarest, and is calling for a zero by-kill goal in all fisheries.
“It’s good to see the Government’s Threat Management Plan aims to return NZ sea lions to non-threatened status, a key goal that thousands of our members called for, but the Plan still lacks specific actions that address the main human threat to sea lions – the squid trawling industry,” says Forest & Bird marine conservation advocate Katrina Goddard.
“We know of three female sea lions that have been killed in squid nets this season alone. If they were nursing, their dependent pups will also have died.”
NZ sea lions are nationally critical and have undergone a significant population decline, almost 50% over the last 2 decades. Multiple threats have caused this decline including drowning in squid nets, disease, and competition for squid.
“Forest & Bird acknowledge that no single threat is responsible for the overall species population decline, but we need to take immediate action on the threats we can stop. Squid can be fished from areas where nursing sea lions aren’t present, or by using sea lion friendly fishing methods such as jigging,” says Ms Goddard.
“Forest & Bird strongly support the proposed sea lion community engagement officer, more monitoring and targeted researched, but we fear the budget allocated does not go far enough to achieve all this.”