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The jury is still out on whether a new ''exclusion'' device inside fishing nets is helping to save sea lions, a Dunedin marine scientist says.
At an international conference in Dunedin next week, Dr Bruce Robertson, of the University of Otago's department of zoology, will highlight efforts to protect New Zealand's endemic sea lions.
More than 1100 people from 30 countries will attend the Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals at which Dr Robertson is one of nine keynote speakers.
It is the first time the conference has been held in Australasia and it has been four years in the planning.
The sea lion population had declined by 40% over the past 10 years and the Government had made it compulsory for all fishing vessels around the Auckland Island breeding area to use exclusion devices on nets, Dr Robertson said.
The device had been hailed as a success by the fishing industry but there was still no evidence to support this.
Fewer sea lions were found in the nets but it was unclear whether they were dead or alive when they exited the chutes at the bottom, he said.