June 30, 2008
The Status of Sea Lions
The account of sea lion deaths by Forest & Bird's Kirstie Knowles (GreenZone, June 21-22) overlooks important facts relevant to assessing impacts of the squid fishery on the sustainability of sea lions.
In 2007-08, the fishing-related mortality limit was reduced to 81 from the previous year's 93. It's estimated that 46 sea lions were killed this year, 10 fewer than last season's 56. This number is well within limits, providing high confidence that the sea lion population will remain at its natural maximum size.
Even if the fisheries minister had considered the sea lion escape devices used by all vessels to be ineffective, this year's limit wouldn't have been reached.
Sea lion escape devices have cut sea lion captures considerably and ongoing research assesses the viability of animals that escape from trawls.
Research suggests the fishery has very little impact on the viability of the Auckland Islands population.
They are considered threatened because of their limited distribution, not because of effects of fishing on population numbers.
Extending the marine mammal sanctuary might save individual sea lions from fishing, but is unlikely to affect the threat status of the sea lions.
Chief executive, NZ Seafood Industry Council
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