Conservation Minister Nick Smith may break his silence
later this week on the challenges facing the critically
endangered New Zealand sea lion.
In the past week, fishing and conservation organisations have
called on the minister to release how many sea lion pups were
born on the Auckland Islands this breeding season as well as
address issues affecting their survival.
A Ministry of Primary Industries spokesman confirmed this
week that a New Zealand sea lion was caught on February 17 in
the squid fishery near the Auckland Islands.
The sea lion was an adult female and is the second observed
capture of the squid season (February to June/July).
Ministry observers have been present at 90% of all squid
vessel tows, the spokesman said.
Dr Smith has been travelling on HMNZS Wellington in the
Auckland Islands area for the past week and was due to return
Despite repeated requests from the Otago Daily Times for Dr
Smith's views on the calls, and claims a release was
forthcoming, it had not eventuated.
A spokeswoman for Dr Smith's office said the matter was still
under consideration but the minister was looking to make an
announcement later this week.
Green Party oceans spokesman Gareth Hughes said the
Government should re-evaluate its squid fishery management
and look at fishing methods such as jigging, which did not
pose as much risk to sea lions.
It also should release the sea lion pup count data, he said.
''The Government has also been refusing to announce the sea
lion pup count for the Auckland Islands, the New Zealand sea
lions' main breeding ground,'' said Mr Hughes.
Forest and Bird marine conservation advocate Katrina Goddard
also called for a change to the jigging method of catching
''The two deaths are especially alarming because they were
They are likely to have a dependent pup on shore and be
pregnant so three lives are lost each time,'' she said.
The DeepWater fishing group last week suggested a bacterial
infection was causing more damage to the sea lion population
Chief executive George Clement said jigging for squid only
worked in calm waters as it required a stable vessel platform
and conditions in the Auckland Islands were often too severe
for the practice.
The group had invested huge amounts of time and effort into
refining sea lion exclusion devices.
''Despite our best efforts, we will occasionally catch sea
lions and independent MPI observers on board report them.''