The Department of Conservation (DOC) has released a new management plan to help the recovery of the endangered New Zealand Sea Lion.
The New Zealand Sea Lion Species Management Plan 2009-2014 (SMP) provides a framework to ensure progress towards the recovery of the sea lion is made over the next 5 years.
Work will focus on managing adverse human impacts, community relations initiatives and enforcement activities. Research priorities are also indentified.
Once found widely around the mainland coastline, the population of around 12 000 is now restricted to a small presence on the Otago coastline with the vast majority of the breeding occurring on the Sub-Antarctic islands.
DOC monitoring of pup production at the Sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands’ group indicates that the population is declining. The exact reason for the decline is unclear but the downward trend is a significant concern.
DOC’s General Manager of Research and Development, Kevin O’Connor said, “The New Zealand sea lion is one of the world’s rarest sea lion species and DOC is committed to managing its recovery.
The recent senseless shooting of a sea lion in Southland is clear evidence that there are still people who are not aware or who misunderstand the importance of protecting these animals.
The new Species Management Plan sets out a framework under which DOC can work with all groups towards the sea lion’s recovery.”
Kevin O’Connor said DOC looked at introducing a population management plan but decided against the proposal based on several concerns.
Under the species management plan, DOC will develop tools to reduce or minimise human-induced threats, such as fishery by-catch. Enforcement activities will continue alongside work to educate communities on human impacts on the sea lion population.
At the same time the department will focus research on close monitoring of the population and to improve the understanding of the impacts of specific threats.