Delaying the assessment of the management tool used to set
limits for sea lion deaths in the Auckland Islands squid
fishery for five years is ''inherently risky'' given the
''uncertainties around its predictions'', an specialist
review panel has found.
The panel found it would be impossible to determine whether
the limits set on the squid fishery would succeed in meeting
agreed management targets.
As a result, Otago University scientist Bruce Robertson has
called for the panel's recommendations to be immediately
implemented so new management measures could be put in place
for the next fishing season, which starts on February 1,
2014. However, the Ministry for Primary Industries said it
never intended to wait five years before responding to the
It was considering each of the recommendations in the report
on a case-by-case basis.
''Some recommendations will result in further research being
conducted or changes to the population model. Until this work
is completed, it is too early to anticipate what management
changes may result,'' it said.
The independent review of the model and data the fishery's
management was based on was commissioned by the ministry
early this year.
The panel, which consisted of three international experts in
marine mammal population modelling, was assisted by a group
of scientists including Dr Robertson, Otago University's
Assoc Prof Liz Slooten and New Zealand Sea Lion Trust member
Shaun McConkey, of Dunedin.
The panel found that while the model was carefully and
correctly implemented, some of the assumptions of the model
included ''unknown and unaccounted-for uncertainty''.
The model was the ''best available'' for managing limits in
the fishery, but it was not without ''potentially important
Further testing and modifications to the model were
''Until the model has been modified, tested and rerun, it
will be impossible to determine whether the current limits
upon SQU6T [squid] fishery will succeed in meeting the agreed
Dr Robertson said given the panel's conclusions and that the
Fisheries Act 1978 stressed ''decision-makers should be
cautious when information is uncertain, unreliable or
inadequate'', the correct course of action was to revoke the
five-year plan and the 140% increase in fishing effort
awarded to the industry last year, which allowed up to 68 sea
lions to be killed.
''That management was based on erroneous information.''
Also, given the panel expressed concerns about how sea lion
exclusion devices were working in the fishery, the 82%
discount given for their use should reset to the previous
level of 35% until further research was done on their
effectiveness, he said.
''It is clear that this was also erroneously increased based
on poor interpretation of the limited available evidence.''