Primary Industries Minister David Carter says updated scientific research has played a key part in his decision on management measures for the Auckland Islands squid trawl fishery (SQU6T).

Mr Carter today announced the maximum number of accidental fishing related sea lion deaths for the 2012/13 fishing season is to remain at 68.

“Improved scientific research shows Sea Lion Exclusion Devices (SLEDs), that enable sea lions accidentally caught in fishing gear to escape, are working.

“The increased certainty of information now available about SLEDs means we can be more precise about the management of this important fishery,” Mr Carter says.

Squid is one of New Zealand’s highest earning seafood products, with export revenue of $100 million last year.

Mr Carter says today’s announcement provides certainty to the fishing industry, while retaining tight management controls in order to protect our native sea lions.

“I am encouraged that there have been no reported sea lion captures in SQU6T during the past two completed seasons, with more than 1100 of the trawl tows observed by Ministry for Primary Industry observers,” Mr Carter says.

The decision takes effect from 1 October this year with a review in four years, or earlier if information shows fishing to be impacting on the sea lion population.

Key Decisions

A fishing-related mortality limit of 68 sea lions per season is to be retained in order to limit the risk fishing may pose to the sea lion population.

The requirement for coverage by MPI observers is to increase to 50%. In practice, MPI observer coverage is likely to be significantly higher in this fishery following the Government’s decision earlier this year for all foreign charter vessels to carry observers.

The SLED discount rate, which recognises the effectiveness of SLEDs in protecting sea lions accidentally caught in fishing gear, is to increase. Vessels can carry out more trawl tows, up to a total of 4700 per season.

If one of several trigger points is reached, MPI will review the management measures. Triggers include a pup count of fewer than 1501 on the Auckland Islands.

MPI is to commission a review of the population model used in managing this fishery to ensure it continues to be as accurate as possible. MPI and the Department of Conservation are to gather information on non-fishing-related impacts, including disease and ecosystem changes, to determine the reason for a declining sea lion population.