The Government is failing to protect the critically endangered New Zealand sea lion by proposing to remove entirely the squid fishing by-catch limit, Green Party Oceans spokesperson Gareth Hughes said today.
Mr Hughes was responding to the Government's proposed management measures for the upcoming squid fishing season, posted to the Ministry of Fisheries website late Friday afternoon. The Government has removed the fishing related mortality limit and, based on questionable assumptions about the increased effectiveness of sea lion exclusion devices (SLEDs), allowed an increase squid fishing activity. SLEDs are a piece of equipment designed to keep sea lions out of trawling nets.
"This decision favours the fishing industry and will push our sea lions closer to extinction," said Mr Hughes.
"It is unacceptable that the Government has proposed that the New Zealand sea lion, one of the worlds most threatened sea lion species, will have absolutely no limit to the squid fishery by-catch.
"We don't allow hunters to accidently kill great spotted kiwis or kakapo, why should we allow the New Zealand fishing industry no limit regarding our sea lions?
"Recent research by the University of Otago identified squid fishing as the most likely cause of the decline of the New Zealand sea lion on their main breeding ground of the Auckland Islands.
"The Government is gambling with the survival of this precious species," said Mr Hughes.
"The Minister ought to be using the precautionary principle and allowing the New Zealand sea lion to recover to a healthy population level.
"The Minister can protect this iconic mammal and put in place a population management plan, by enlarging the Auckland Island marine reserve and encouraging sustainable fishing methods which don't impact sea lions."
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