Decision on Operational Plan to Manage the Incidental Capture of New Zealand sea lions in the Southern Squid Trawl Fishery

The Minister of Fisheries, Hon Stuart Nash, has announced the management measures that will apply to the Southern Squid Trawl Fishery (SQU6T) to manage the incidental capture of New Zealand Sea Lions.

“Protecting our treasured marine taonga is incredibly important, and I am committed to ensuring that fishing activity does not threaten the overall population of New Zealand sea lions,” said Mr Nash.

The Fishing Related Mortality Limit (FRML) will be set at 38, includes the following arrangements to monitor the FRML:

  • a minimum of 70% coverage by MPI Observers of tows in SQU6T
  • 72-hour notice to MPI of any trip intending to operate in SQU6T; and
  • notification to MPI of any marine mammal captures within 48 hours.

The FRML of 38 defines the maximum number of sea lion mortalities that may occur in the fishery before it is closed.

“I have set the FRML at a level I consider will prevent adverse impacts of fishing on the overall sea lion population, which is a reduction of 30 on the previous FRML,” says Mr Nash.

The current modelling information that was developed in support of the New Zealand Sea Lion/Rāpoka Threat Management Plan (TMP) has been peer-reviewed by the DOC Conservation Services Programme Technical Working Group, the MPI Aquatic Environment Working Group, and by an independent panel of international marine mammal experts. These groups include representatives from all sectors and it should be noted that all have endorsed the existing model and risk assessment methods and outputs.

“I have instructed my officials to prioritise research into cryptic mortality and SLED efficacy, and also to look for ways that research in these areas can be expedited, which may provide the opportunity to review this plan sooner than the current two-year timeframe,” says Mr Nash.

“There is also relevant research that is utilising camera monitoring in SLEDs currently underway in Australia that will be considered and incorporated as appropriate to better inform our understanding of SLEDs. All these efforts will allow future decisions to benefit from a stronger evidence base.”

Mr Nash says this fishery will be monitored closely to ensure that the management settings are meeting their objectives.

Although this operational plan is intended to apply until 2019, the Minister of Fisheries reserves the right to review the plan prior to that date should additional information (including reports of sea lion mortalities or outcomes from new research) demonstrate the need for an earlier review.

 “I have taken into account the views of the Minister of Conservation, advice from MPI and the multi-stakeholder Squid 6T Operational Plan Technical Advisory Group, and also the views provided by tangata whenua and stakeholders in making this decision.”