Critically endangered New Zealand sea lion killed in trawl net

NEW ZEALAND - 2004/01/01: Subantarctic New Zealand, Auckland Islands, Enderby Island, Hooker's (new Zealand) Sea Lion Colony, Beach Masters. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty

A critically endangered New Zealand sea lion has been killed in a squid trawl net.

Forest and Bird says the death is an example of why the current method of squid fishing, trawling, is too dangerous for sea lions despite attempts to make it safer.

Sea Lion Exclusion Devices (SLEDs) have been installed into the nets in an attempt to give sea lions a means of escape if they get stuck.

However Forest and Bird says there is little evidence that the devices do what they're supposed to.

"There is no evidence to show SLEDs don't just eject dead and injured animals, preventing them from being accounted for by official observers," said Forest and Bird oceans advocate Anton Van Helden.

"We have no way of knowing the actual number of sea lions that pass through the SLEDs."

The dead sea lion was a female, meaning up to three animals could have been affected by its death due to the possibility she was pregnant or nursing.

There are only around 12,000 New Zealand sea lions in the wild.

Forest and Bird wants the fishing industry to transition to "jigging", a method of squid fishing that is seen as sea lion friendly.

There are concerns in the industry that it could be unsafe or less economical, but according to Mr Van Helden those views are mistaken.

"Industry arguments… are anecdotal, and are at odds with research that shows jigging fisheries operate in similar sea conditions in other parts of the Southern Ocean," he said.