The Government is to invest $2.8 million over the next four years on a new strategy to manage threats to New Zealand sea lions.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry have today announced a significant funding increase to ensure a comprehensive New Zealand Sea Lion Threat Management Plan at the Threatened Species Summit in Wellington.
"New Zealand sea lions are one of the rarest sea lion species in the world, and breed mainly in our subantarctic islands. The population is sitting at just under 12,000 and researchers estimate nearly 2,000 (1,965) sea lion pups were born at the Auckland Islands this season, up 14% on last season," says Ms Barry.
"Fishers are keen to do the right thing and avoid catching sea lions so the population can continue to flourish and that’s why they use Sea Lion Exclusion Devices (SLEDs) in key fisheries that overlap with sea lion foraging. Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Observers audit and report back to MPI on SLED use," says Mr Guy.
Ms Barry says disease and commercial fishing are the greatest threats for sea lions at the Auckland Islands but people are a greater threat to mainland populations.
"This is particularly important with the recent expansion of sea lion breeding back to Stewart Island and the Mainland where they are more likely to come in to contact with people. The first new sea lion breeding colony on mainland New Zealand for 200 years is on the verge of establishing on Stewart Island and we need to protect them," Ms Barry says.
"New rangers will implement community education programmes, respond to sea lion incidents and assist in beach monitoring in Otago and the Catlins."
"One of key actions will be to carry out more research into the disease Klebsiella pneumonia and work out ways of mitigating the effects of the disease which is killing sea lions,’ Ms Barry says.
"The Threat Management Plan is being finalised for release soon and will provide further opportunities to look at the main threats to sea lions - disease, commercial fishing, changes in food resources, pups drowning in holes, and people," Mr Guy says.
The plan also comprises a five-year programme of research, management actions and monitoring to stabilise and grow the population in future.