How many dead Australian Sea Lions is too many?
How many dead Australian Sea Lions is too many? Not 104 per year according to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA). Despite fisheries being closed for the deaths of far fewer marine mammals, it appears that AFMA is willing to risk the future of Australia’s only endemic sea lion so that a handful of boats can continue to fish in denial of both the animal welfare costs and the science, which states that the bycatch of threatened Australian Sea Lions must be reduced to as close to zero as possible.
“The Government sanctioning of the drowning of 104 Australian Sea Lions is a national shame,” said Alexia Wellbelove of Humane Society International. “AFMA believes that consumers will be happy for these amazing animals to be sacrificed so that a small handful of fishers can continue to fish irresponsibly in the misguided belief that more data will absolve them of the problem, no matter what the welfare cost.”
In 2010, a report1 was published outlining the impacts on Australian Sea Lions from a South Australian fishery, which estimated that 256 were being killed each year. The Australian Sea Lion is listed as a threatened species under federal environmental legislation. Since then, HSI has been working closely with Government and Fishery Management agencies in an effort to ensure that all sub-populations of the Australian Sea Lion are not only protected but allowed to recover. This is important as for many sub-populations; the death of just one Australian Sea Lion is too much for the species to withstand.
Following months of analysis of the problem and successive unsuccessful strategies, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority put in place revised management procedures on a six-month temporary basis as of 1st May 20113. These management arrangements sanction the killing of 104 Australian Sea Lions, or 52 female sea lions a year before the fishery is closed4.
“Whilst we welcome the small steps taken by AFMA, such as the application of 100% observer coverage on the fishery and larger closure areas, the fact remains that the preventable death of 104 animals a year from an already threatened species is totally unacceptable,” said Ms Wellbelove.
“Fishers and fisheries management agencies must stop using the excuse of the need to obtain more data, and urgently put in place measures that ensure the reduction of Australian Sea Lion bycatch in line with scientific advice to as close to zero as possible. Fishers are saying they don’t catch sea lions – if this is the case they have nothing to lose by adopting management measures to ensure that this becomes a reality, with the strong penalty of closure of the fishery if Australian Sea Lions are killed. If this cannot be done, then the Environment Minister must revoke the export approval for the fishery.”