Sea lion pup

Image: Gareth Hopkins | DOC

Introduction

A five-year programme of research, management and monitoring is being carried out to stabilise and grow the New Zealand sea lion population.

We're working at four breeding locations to support the New Zealand sea lion/rāpoka Threat Management Plan (TMP) 2017-2022. These locations are the Auckland Islands and Campbell Island/Motu Ihupuku in the subantarctics, the Otago and Southland coast, and Stewart Island/Rakiura. The NZ Sea Lion Trust also supports research on New Zealand sea lion. 

Details of our work in each breeding location, on other projects and on the principles we intergrate into our work can be viewed below:

Mātauranga Māori

The New Zealand sea lion TMP is an overarching 5-year strategic programme of work agreed to by the Ministers of Conservation and Primary Industries.

The principles of mātauranga Māori are incorporated into the workstreams of the TMP to achieve its goals. Working in partnership on issues relating to sea lions, DOC and the Ministry for Primary Industries enable whānau, hapū, and iwi to fulfil their kaitiakitanga responsibilities towards sea lions.

Auckland Islands

The TMP goal for the Auckland Islands is that pup production continues to increase from the 2014 count. 

We'll evaluate the outcome of our work by measuring:

  • improvement of the NZ sea lion adult female and pup survival rates, and
  • pup numbers rising consistently above 1,575 (the 2014 pup count), and ideally over the 2017 count of 1,965.

Reports and research

Intermittent observations and monitoring occurred between 1942 and 1994. Since then pup counts have been measured every year at four breeding locations: Enderby Island at Sandy Bay and South East Point (no pups born there since 2012), Dundas Island and Figure of Eight Island.

Download annual fieldwork, reports and CSP-TMP Technical Working Group presentations by year below:

Latest pup count

nz-sea-lion-pups-chart-feb19-565.png
Pup count numbers at different breeding locations at Auckland Islands: 1995-2019

Campbell Island/Motu Ihupuku

The TMP goal for Campbell Island is to reduce the level of pup mortality and support population growth.

We'll evaluate the outcome of our work by measuring:

  • pup counts consistently at or above the 2015 pup count of 696,
  • pup mortality rates consistently lower than 40% each year, and
  • increased frequency and consistency of sea lion monitoring.

Research and reports

Opportunistic surveys and ad-hoc tagging of sea lions have taken place on the island since the mid-1950s. Scientific monitoring and rigorous pup counts and tagging of the sea lion population started with an initial structured search and pup tagging in 1998, and were then conducted every 2 to 5 years thereafter. From 2017/18, annual monitoring has been conducted.

Download annual fieldwork reports and CSP-TMP Technical Working Group presentations by year below:

Latest pup count

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Pup count numbers at Campbell Island

Otago and Southland/Te Waipounamu

The TMP goal for Otago and Southland coast is to support population growth.

We'll evaluate the outcome of our work by measuring:

  • pup counts above 16 per year, with an aim to reach 35 so this area will be on track to achieve the status of a breeding colony,
  • no cases of mortality deliberately caused by humans, and
  • increased involvement of the public in conservation of sea lions.

Research and reports

Commercial sealing activities removed breeding colonies from the New Zealand mainland by the 1800s. In 1993, a female sea lion named “Mum” had her pup at the Otago Peninsula, and this was the first New Zealand sea lion breeding event on the mainland in over 100 years.

Female sea lions are philopatric, which means they return to breed where they were born. So this event started the recolonisation of the New Zealand sea lion historical breeding range as Mum's female pups continued to breed at this site.

The New Zealand Sea Lion Trust, local communities, and DOC have been monitoring the New Zealand sea lion population on the mainland, carrying out annual pup counts and tagging.

Download annual fieldwork, reports and CSP-TMP Technical Working Group presentations below:

Stewart Island/Rakiura 

On Stewart Island the TMP goal is to facilitate population growth so the island can achieve breeding colony status.

We'll evaluate the outcome of our work by measuring:

  • pup counts higher than 35 for 5 years in a row. This will qualify Stewart Island/Rakiura as a new breeding colony.
  • Continued increase in number of pups born to enable colonial breeding behaviour 
  • No deliberate human-caused mortality
  • Increased public interest and involvement in the conservation of sea lions

Research and reports

Sea lions have been reported around Stewart Island since the mid-1950s. Surveys by University of Otago students in the 1990s recorded the presence of sea lions, including some pups, particularly around Port Pegasus. Since 2011, annual searches have taken place in Port Pegasus in early March and all pups found have been tagged.

Download annual fieldwork reports and CSP-TMP Technical Working Group presentations by year below:

Latest pup count

rakiua-pup-count-graph-565.png
Pup count numbers at Rakiura/Stewart Island

 

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