Mass dolphin and sea lion deaths in Australian waters
Sydney, 13 September 2011
Five conservation groups today called for an immediate ban on the use of gillnets in a shark fishery operating in Commonwealth waters off South Australia due to the deaths of many dolphins and Australian sea lions.
256 threatened Australian sea lions are estimated to be killed each year in the fishery. The latest available information shows that 13 dolphins were killed in the fishery in the first three months of this year alone. Whilst a heavily criticized and inadequate strategy is in place for the Australian sea lion, it would appear that impacts on dolphins are increasing, with exact numbers of deaths not known, and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) seems unwilling to share the latest information publicly.
“The death of dolphins and threatened Australian sea lions in our waters is completely unacceptable” said HSI’s Alexia Wellbelove. “The public have a right to know the extent of this problem and what action is being taken to prevent their suffering, and a right to expect fisheries to be doing everything they can to avoid these deaths. Sadly this appears not to be the case.”
“These nets are already a threat to the survival of the iconic and threatened Australian sea lion at places such as Seal Bay, a major tourism drawcard, now we find they are also killing dolphins” said Kathryn Warhurst of CCSA. “We are concerned that there is a lack of urgency to address interactions with both dolphins and sea lions, resulting in more animals dying.”
“Our marine environment is under threat from many angles, and this is just another blow to our dolphins and sea lions. It is clear that until such time that gillnets in this fishery can be used without killing dolphins and sea lions, alternative fishing methods must be found” said Ms Wellbelove.
“We are concerned AFMA’s reluctance reveal the scale of the problem is also preventing the best scientists and conservation experts contributing to the solution. AFMA’s insular methods will result in second rate mitigation strategies. There is no time to lose if we want to protect our dolphins and Australian sea lions from the threats posed by gillnets in South Australian waters” said Ms Warhurst.