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Friday, April 21, 2006

[ANGER] First Do No Harm

This week the Minister of Fisheries, Jim Anderton, did something that truly disgusted me. He increased squid fishing quotas.

Not the number of squid that could be caught, but the number of sea lions that could be killed as a result of squid fishing. It is called a “kill quota” and is the number of sea lions that can be drowned in nets by the squid fishing industry.

The sea lions in question are not just any old sea lions but the New Zealand Sea Lion (also called Hookers’ Sea Lion or Rapoka) that is only found in New Zealand (naturally). Forest and Bird put out a media statement which includes the following numbers:

  1. The New Zealand sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri) is the only endemic NZ pinniped and is listed as a Vulnerable species on the 2004 IUCN (World Conservation Union) Red List of Species Threatened with Extinction.
  2. Over 2,000 NZ sea lions have been killed in the Auckland Islands squid fishery since 1980.
  3. Each year for the past eleven years the Minister of Fisheries has set a ‘kill quota’ for the number of NZ sea lions the squid fishing industry is allowed to drown in its fishing nets. The first kill quota set in 1994 was 16 protected New Zealand sea lions. In 2003 the quota was set at 62, however the fishing industry took legal action to permit increased sea lion killing. As a result, the final number of protected New Zealand sea lions killed in 2003 was 144.
  4. This year’s squid catch is likely to have already been well above the average for the past 18 years. The median catch for the fishery between 1987 and 2004 was just under 11,000 tonnes, which is equivalent to 33% of the long-term average total allowable catch for the same period. It is predicted that this year’s catch to the end of March would be 57% (around 18,000 tonnes) of the total allowable catch when the sea lion ‘kill quota’ limit of 97 was reached. This means that this year’s catch will be one of the ‘best’ on record.
  5. Jigging involves the use of small continuous-loop hooked lines which do not pose the same risk to non-target species as trawl nets.

Kevin Hackwell, Advocacy Manager for Forest and Bird said “Jigging offers a safer alternative and is used successfully in the Falkland Islands. It would also result in better quality squid being brought to market because trawling does more damage to the squid caught.”

The sea lions that are usually killed are pregnant females who are catching food for their current pups. This means with one death three generations are killed.

So where did Hon. Jim Anderton get his numbers that lead to his decision to increase the Kill Quota 55% from 97 dead sea lions to 150 dead sea lions? Well the Fisheries website contains no news regarding the Minister’s decision. [Note: it was a ministerial decision not a ministry policy]. So it must have DoC’s numbers, right? Well they have no releases on it either.

HOWEVER, they do have The Marine Mammal Action Plan (pdf). In the section of the plan that relates to NZ Sea Lions the Department of Conservation says it will:

“Continue to seek and establish effective prevention and mitigation methods that reduce fishing-related mortality, and ensure that most recent data is incorporated into all models used to calculate incidental mortality limits”


Forest and Bird claim that the Minister is using an outdated model that has not recent current trends and needs to be updated; this is in clear opposition to the Department of Conservation’s plan. It seems that Anderton was told by the squid industry that it was a big squid season and that he should increase the quota so that they could catch more squid and make more money.

Anderton you used to be cool, man. What happened to you?

So over the next month or so here is what YOU do. That’s right YOU.

  • No more squid. Have a squid-less diet. How hard is that? How often do you eat squid anyway? I say go cold turkey. Actually that would be a good idea. Wild turkey if it’s possible, because turkeys are a pest here.
  • Email Hon. Jim Anderton (just click the link) and tell him what you think. Make a good argument and keep certain words to a minimum.

Go do it!

1 comment:

che tibby said...

apparently if you fry the blubber on those sea lions they're pretty tasty.

a bit like a roast pork that's lived on cod liver oil...

mmmmmm.....