19 December 2008

The seafood industry supports the Minister of Fisheries’ decision on sea lion by-catch numbers and will continue to work to reduce individual sea lion deaths.

The Ministry of Fisheries announced a limit of 113 sea lion by-catches for the 2009 squid fishery this afternoon.

Richard Wells, a fisheries specialist from the Deepwater Group Limited said he was pleased that the Minister’s decision, whilst precautionary, recognised the science.

“The Minister is taking a precautionary approach based on science and research. We don’t see this number as some kind of target or license to kill, and we will continue to reduce the number of individual sea lions affected by squid fishing activities.

“I do understand the concerns of the community around individual sea lion deaths and that’s why we are focused on ensuring we do everything practicable to mitigate that small risk to individual sea lions,” said Mr Wells.

The squid fishery is New Zealand’s second largest seafood exporter and nearly all of the considerable amount of research that is invested in the fishery is focused on sea lion mitigation. Industry works closely the Department of Conservation and the Ministry of Fisheries on managing mitigation.

The squid fishery has high observer coverage as well as the best known sea lion mitigation devices in the world with 100% use of sea lion exclusion devices (SLEDs). Crew who are employed in the squid fishery are also trained around marine mammal interactions.