The Australian Sea Lion, highlighted in a recent ABC documentary for the extraordinary devotion shown to their young, remain under threat in Australia's waters. Despite being listed as a threatened species, these amazing animals are being caught and drowned in the nets of a shark fishery off South Australia, with a recent report revealing an estimated 374 Australian Sea Lions are killed each breeding season. “Supermum,” shown on ABC TV last night, could die in fishing nets this season. The sharks caught in this fishery are marketed as flake and sold in fish and chip shops around Australia.
As part of this fishery's right to export its products, the Federal Environment Minister gave fishery managers and industry until 30 June 2010 to implement measures, including closures, to enable the recovery of all Australian Sea Lion sub-populations. In June, a management strategy was put in place which Humane Society International (HSI) believes to be wholly insufficient to reduce the risk to the sea lions, with the strategy sanctioning the killing of at least 15 animals a year, a figure in reality likely to be far higher. As a result, HSI has called for the export approval for the fishery to be revoked. Months on, the final Government assessment as to whether the management strategy put in place by fishery managers sufficiently reduces the risk to the sea lions is yet to be completed.
“Australian Sea Lions are Australia's only endemic seal species, yet we continue to treat the death of these amazing animals as acceptable so that we can continue to eat our fish and chips” said Alexia Wellbelove of Humane Society International. “As an iconic animal for our tourism industry, the Australian Sea Lion brings in enormous tourism revenue to the South Australian region, a revenue that is at risk if these deaths continue to be tolerated.”
“Only large closures of the sea lion's feeding areas can provide the Australian Sea Lion with the protection that the species deserves and needs to avoid further decline in numbers. As this will also involve large-scale closures of fishing grounds, it is now time for the Government to intervene and put these in place. Until then, fisheries managers will continue to put their heads in the sand over the impact they are having on these ‘supermums', hoping that the Government will pass their inadequate plans” concluded Alexia Wellbelove.
HSI has previously launched legal action against the Federal Environment Minister for approving this fishery's right to export because of its impact on threatened species and negotiated the 30 June 2010 deadline to protect Australian Sea Lions with the Minister.
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