19 December 2011


The seafood industry urges the Greens to work with industry and government to collectively find the real reason for the decline in sea lion numbers.

“Like the Greens we are concerned about the decline in sea lion pup numbers but MAF’s recent independent research is telling us that sea lions don’t sustain severe trauma from interactions with Sea Lion Exclusion Devices (SLEDs),” says Deepwater Group of New Zealand chief executive George Clement.

SLEDs are equipment enabling sea lions to escape alive and unharmed from trawl nets. Research has shown that previous estimates of sea lion deaths attributable to SLEDs were greatly exaggerated. Additionally Ministry of Fisheries and DOC research shows that less than 5 per cent (20 per year and declining) of the total decline of sea lions can be attributed to squid fishing.

While any death is too many, the challenge for scientists and fisheries managers is to find the real reason behind the pup decline and act accordingly, says New Zealand Seafood Industry Council chief executive Peter Bodeker.

“The Greens recent efforts draw attention away from this work do nothing to help this critically endangered species.”

The seafood industry has invested a considerable amount of effort into resolving the issue since 2006, including daily monitoring of squid fleet operations, employing full time operational managers to oversee continuous improvement of SLED operations, as well as a collaboration with overseas experts on ways to reduce harm to sea lions.

"Recent research by DOC and MAF estimates the Auckland sea lion population has been declining by an average of 400 animals a year since 1998. Incidental captures in the squid fishery during this period have averaged around 20 animals per year - or around 5 per cent - and have now been reduced by management measures to less than 10 per year.

Fishing had been blamed but is clearly not the cause - the challenge for scientists is to find out what the real cause is and see if a remedy can be found."

“Industry will continue to work to address this problem and invite the Greens, and any other interested parties, to become part of the solution,” says Mr Clement.