• John Luxton
Fisheries and Aquaculture

Hon John Luxton, Minister of Fisheries announced today that he will close the squid fishery surrounding the Auckland Islands to squid trawlers as of Friday March 28 for the rest of the fishing year. This follows further assessment of New Zealand sea lion capture data from Ministry observers which show by-catch levels have exceeded the limit determined.

Before making this decision I have consulted with a range of agencies, fishing industry groups, and conservation organisations to seek their views on this whole issue, the Minister said today.

I have been particularly concerned to discuss with the fishing industry any alternative options for preventing sea lion captures given the very considerable economic impacts associated with any closure, said Mr Luxton.

The fishing industry has indicated that closing the fishery will cause significant economic impacts including, loss of substantial income, lost jobs, possible financial difficulties for some small companies, contract complications, flow on impacts in processing and vessel servicing, as well as difficulties in charter availability for squid and other associated fisheries.

However, it appears there are no immediate solutions, other than total closure, which can guarantee no further sea lions will be captured this season. In light of this fact, and the level of mortalities reported to date, I believe I must formally close the fishery to further squid trawl activity for the remainder of the season, he said.

There are the approximately 13,500 Hookers sea lions of whom 34 have been observed as accidentally caught. Extrapolations using a special formula estimate more than the determined 73 sea lions have been accidentally caught by the whole fleet.

As Minister of Fisheries, I am required to try and balance any adverse impact of fishing on marine ecosystems while recognising legitimate utilisation of fisheries resources.

In this case there is an impact on the Hookers sea lions above the determined limit. As a result, and after the necessary consultation process, I have closed Squid 6T to further squid trawl activity for the rest of the fishing year.

I believe all parties now need to work together to find a longterm solution to this complex problem for the seasons ahead, Mr Luxton concluded.