Sea lions will continue to be killed by fishing vessels unless the Government steps in

Endangered native sea lions will continue to be killed in commercial fishing nets unless the Government takes stronger action than is proposed in a flimsy Threat Management Plan, the Green Party said today.

Submissions close today on the proposed Threat Management Plan for the New Zealand sea lion/rāpoka. The plan suggests several streams of new research, but doesn’t make changes to fishing rules to reduce sea lions being caught and drowning in fishing nets.

“We don’t allow hunters to accidently kill kakapo or great spotted kiwi, so why is it okay for the fishing industry to kill any of our critically endangered New Zealand sea lions?” said Green Party primary industries spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“National’s plan for our native sea lions is too weak. It proposes that if the population of New Zealand sea lions is trending upwards in 20 years and has at least one more sea lion than in 2015, then the plan is a success.

Recently published information shows that in the 2013–14 fishing year, there were four observed captures of New Zealand sea lions in trawl fisheries. It was estimated by a statistical model that there were a total of 10 captures, and 52 “interactions”.  It is not known how many sea lions died or were severely injured after contact with a device designed to exclude sea lions from fishing nets.

“The Government can take action to protect sea lions by enlarging the Marine Mammal Sanctuary around the Auckland Islands and extending the fishing-free zone.

“A bigger no-fishing area would protect sea lions from being caught in nets and would also reduce competition by fishing vessels for species like squid, which sea lions need for food.

“The Green Party in government will put fisheries observers on board all vessels fishing in the sea lions’ habitat. When a sea lion gets caught in a net, that fishery should be closed,” said Ms Sage. 

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