Monday, 6 August 2012

Survival of New Zealand sea lions in jeopardy

WWF media statement - Friday 3 August

Survival of New Zealand sea lions in jeopardy

Primary Industries Minister David Carter yesterday (2 Aug) announced the government will allow the accidental death of up to 68 ‘nationally critical’ New Zealand sea lions in the next squid fishing season.

Responding to this announcement, WWF-New Zealand’s marine programme manager Rebecca Bird said: “While it appears the government has responded to public outcry over its proposal to remove the limit on the number of sea lions caught in fishing nets, this decision fails to give sea lions the protection they need to survive.

“New Zealand sea lions are now the rarest in the world, with pup numbers on the Auckland Islands main breeding site halving since 1998, and fishing is the main human threat to their survival. Scientists believe that without better protection our sea lions could be functionally extinct by 2035.

“The Minister’s claim that sea lion exclusion devices are ‘working’ is misleading. These devices are designed to provide an escape route for sea lions entangled in trawl nets.

“However the continuing decline in sea lion numbers suggests that exclusion devices may be masking the true number of sea lions deaths. It's unknown whether individuals that are expelled from the fishing nets make it back to the surface alive or drown.

“If the government believes that squid fishing is not killing sea lions, they have yet to identify what is. Therefore the only responsible course of action is to be precautionary. The Ministers for Primary Industries and Conservation must take greater responsibility to halt the extinction of New Zealand sea lions.”

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