New fishing rules have been announced to reduce threats to sea lions in the subantarctic Auckland Islands squid fishery.
The Minister of Fisheries, Stuart Nash, decided on the changes following a public consultation and support and advice from the Squid 6T Technical Advisory Group.
As part of the new changes, all vessels will now have to mandatorily use SLEDs. Fisheries New Zealand will also maximise the level of observer coverage in the fishery.
“A minimum of 90% of all fishing activity in the fishery will have direct oversight from an on-board Government observer,” said Stuart Anderon, Fisheries New Zealand director of fisheries management.
“The evidence shows that the impact of fishing peaked in the 1990s, and it is now having a much lower impact.
“Over the last five years, it is estimated that on average fewer than four sea lions were killed in this fishery each year, which is estimated at less than a 1.5% impact on the population in the long term. The most recent estimate of the total population of sea lions is 11,800.”
Precautionary measures will also be undertaken by setting an annual limit to the amount of impact fishing can have before the fishery is closed.
“That limit – which is a backstop only – is a five percent impact on the population in the long term, which is calculated to be 52 sea lions,” Anderson said.
“While the precautionary limit gives us power to close the fishery immediately in a worst case scenario, we constantly monitor the fishery and will take action sooner if we need to.
“We will review these rules if new information becomes available that shows fishing is having a different impact on the sea lion population than scientists currently estimate, or if there are significant new concerns about the sea lion population.”
The decisions focus on fishing’s impact on the sea lion population, however, Anderson added that there are a number of other threats to sea lions, such as disease and environmental conditions, and Fisheries New Zealand will continue to work alongside Department of Conservation to address the threats.
The new measures will be in effect as part of the Squid 6T Operational Plan over the next four fishing years, from 2019/20 to 2022/23.
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