Environmental organisation WWF-New Zealand cautiously welcomes the new southern squid fishing plan (the ‘SQU6T Operational Plan’) released by Minister for Fisheries Stuart Nash today as a first step towards protecting New Zealand sea lions.
“The New Zealand sea lion is the rarest sea lion in the world, and fishing is the biggest threat to these endangered marine mammals,” said WWF-New Zealand CEO Livia Esterhazy. “This new squid fishing plan reduced the kill limit for sea lions from 68 to 38. This is a first step towards ensuring these precious animals’ survival, but the progress cannot stop here. The latest science shows that for sea lions to recover, we need to reduce the number accidentally killed in fishing nets to something very close to zero.
“Importantly, this new squid fishing plan recognises real scientific uncertainties about the size of the fishing problem,” Ms Esterhazy said. “The plan shows the government is committed to resolve questions about the risk fishing poses to sea lions. We encourage the Ministry to get the necessary research done in the next 12 months.
“While it is a step forward, New Zealanders want further reduction in bycatch towards a target of zero over time. Over 99% of the submissions that Kiwis made on the draft version of this plan called for stronger protection than this plan offers. Recent polling shows that 84% of New Zealanders want the government to work to continually reduce bycatch of marine mammals.
“This plan gives a glimmer of hope for New Zealand sea lions, but the new government needs to follow through with research promises and progressively reduce fishing threats.”