New Zealand Sea Lions… An Emotive Issue

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Again… Continuing with the New Zealand Sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri) topic (it being topical with the release of the SQU6T IPP and all, and the Green Party campaign against the removal of the FRML for New Zealand sea lions) I feel compelled to comment on these two articles below.

FinestKind | News and Events | MAF gets sealion science wrong: Uni expert  [Sun 18th Dec 2011] & FinestKind | NZ must be vigilant in reducing sea lion fatalities [Wed 7th Dec 2011]

These articles – are inaccurate, and emotive. And that isn’t fair play. Look at the picture used in both articles – a gorgeous little NZ sea lion pup. A high resolution file, 2.0MB in size, downloadable and useable as computer wallpaper. I have used it in heading banner of this blog. New Zealand sea lions are iconic New Zealand animals – that need our protection. But it just isn’t fair to point the finger at the fishing industry who are not the reason for the decline in the number of pups, but are also doing all they can to mitigate, remedy and avoid interactions with these animals that may occur for a few months every year.

These articles – feature some emotive language – here is some from Ruth Dyson:

“This year’s ‘kill quota’ is yet to be announced, but proposals suggest the government may remove the fishing related mortality limit, meaning there may be no cap on the squid fisheries by-catch or the ‘accidental’ slaughter of New Zealand sea lions this year,” Ruth Dyson said.

I love this murderous vocabulary – even if it is bordering on libelous! Kill quota? This is why the FRML has to be removed. It is not right to manage a commercial fishery with an FRML. As for the impication that without a cap on by-catch fishermen wil go out there and accidentally slaughter NZ sea lions? What is Ruth Dyson (who I wager probably has never been on board a fishing vessel) implying here? That fishermen are mindless accidental marine mammal murderers pre-occupied only with their catch? This implication is incredible. Totally offensive and defamatory.

The Seafood Industry has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in research, both operational and scientific in order to minimise interactions with marine mammals. Fishing vessel skippers impose a comprehensive range of operational procedures that are very effective at minimising interactions with marine mammals, by pre-empting and responding to interactions in a health and safety context.

There is also this statement by Ruth Dyson

“With the number one cause of sea lion decline attributed to the squid fishery sector, the government should be working to bring down the number of fatalities, rather than sending a message that this is no longer a concern. New Zealand sea lions are not expendable.”

Need I point out that the above statement is totally incorrect – the number one cause of sea lion decline is not attributed to the squid fishery sector. As to the implication that NZ sea lions are expendable is almost offensive. Fishermen do everything possible to minimise interactions with these animals. Much more than Ruth Dyson will ever do. But then She did make this statement before the general election didn’t she?…

In a statement put out by Karin Kos of Seafood New Zealand: Science Drives Proposal to Change Squid Fishery By-catch Limits [Seafood Industry Council – Press release – 5 December 2011]. The Seafood Industry explains that:

The Government’s proposal to remove the tow limits imposed on squid fishing to prevent sea lion captures is based on assiduous fact-finding work driven by MAF and undertaken by a range of independent national and international science providers, says the Deepwater Group of New Zealand and the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council.”

“Based on the new scientific evidence presented by MAF, it is now accepted that there is no evidence that sea lions sustain severe trauma from interactions with a SLED (Sea Lion Exclusion Device – equipment enabling sea lions to escape out of trawling nets),” says Richard Wells of the Deepwater Group of New Zealand.

Mr Wells said that over the past few years both new information and a significant shift in the interpretation of information relating to the efficacy of the SLEDs in the squid fisheries had debunked previous theories that SLED use was a key contributor to sea lion deaths. “The work shows that previous estimates of sea lion deaths attributable to SLEDs were greatly exaggerated.”

Mr Wells said that a significant amount of industry effort had gone into this issue since 2006, including daily monitoring of squid fleet operations, employing full time operational managers to oversee continuous improvement of SLED operations, and collaboration with overseas experts on ways to reduce harm to sea lions. “As an industry we have focused considerable time and resource on successful methods that ensure the occasional sea lions that enter our nets are able to escape unharmed, and now the new science backs that up, estimating the majority of sea lions escape alive and unharmed.”

Mr Bodeker, CE of the New Zealand Seafood Council said that that sea lion pup count declines are of concern to the industry and the challenge now is for scientists to establish the real reason for the pup declines and to see if a remedy can be identified. That will include re-examining diseases that caused such large reductions in previous years. “Of key importance to the seafood industry and to the public is that that the fishery still has the stringent requirement to carefully manage interactions and maintain the rigour of management standards achieved over the last several years.

“For example that means that continued high levels of observer coverage will be applied to ensure best practices are maintained and where possible improved.” Mr Bodeker said that the seafood industry will continue to work with and support MAF and DOC in relevant monitoring, management measures and research to ensure sea lions have the best possible chance of maintaining or improving their population status.

Please see some of the earlier posts for more background on the NZ sea lion FRML removal polemic.

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One thought on “New Zealand Sea Lions… An Emotive Issue

  1. Pingback: New Zealand TV3 reports the “Vicious disease killing NZ’s sea lions” | Green Fish Blue Fish

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