SEA LIONS LAST ROAR?

Element - - Cover Story -

The New Zealand sea lion (left) is one of the rarest in the world and is clas­si­fied by the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion as ‘na­tion­ally crit­i­cal’: the same clas­si­fi­ca­tion given to the kakapo and Maui’s dol­phin.

More than 95% of the breed­ing pop­u­la­tion of this species oc­curs on two small breed­ing sites in the Auck­land Is­lands, in New Zealand’s sub-antarc­tic zone. Their for­ag­ing range over­laps the fish­ing grounds of the south­ern squid trawl fish­ery and leads to the ac­ci­den­tal drown­ing of sea lions in trawl nets as they at­tempt to eat the squid. In re­sponse, For­est and Bird and WWF are call­ing for in­creased re­search and reg­u­la­tion to pro­tect them.

A new sci­en­tific study from the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion has sug­gested that New Zealand’s sea lions are likely to be­come ex­tinct within the next 23 years if the killing goes on. But in a po­si­tion pa­per re­leased last year, the Min­istry of Fish­eries said the sea lion death rate had “de­clined markedly in re­cent years” and pro­posed re­mov­ing reg­u­la­tions that could close fish­eries if too many sea lions are killed.

A decision on this is due by the end of this month.

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