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June 6, 2011 - AA Australian Sea Lions need your help!      

Australian Sea lions need your helP!

June 6 2011

In 2010, a report1 was published outlining the impacts on Australian Sea Lions from a South Australian shark fishery, which estimated that 256 sea lions were being killed each year. The Australian Sea Lion is listed as a threatened species under federal environmental legislation and is Australia' s only endemic sea lion. 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 (AFMA) 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.

It seems that our Government is happy for the lives of 104 threatened Australian Sea Lions to be sacrificed to allow the fishery to continue, despite the fact that the tourism industry around Australian Sea Lions is worth ten times the value of the fishery to the South Australian economy. At this level of deaths, populations are unlikely to be able to recover and will face further decline.

HSI is demanding that AFMA tell us how many dead Australian Sea Lions is too many? Both Australian and international scientists agree that deaths of the sea lions need to be reduced to as close to zero as possible so that they face a chance of recovering. Fishers claim they don' t catch Australian Sea Lions and yet they appear unwilling to accept lower thresholds of sea lion deaths before fishery closures are invoked.

Whilst some efforts have been put in place by AFMA to address sea lion bycatch, such as 100% observer coverage and the implementation of closure areas to protect sea lions, these are not sufficient to allow the recovery of all sub-populations of the species, which is required as a condition under the export approval for the fishery.

We therefore need your help to let the Australian Government know that you will not accept the continuing deaths of a threatened endemic species so that a handful of boats can continue to fish in denial of both the animal welfare costs and the science.

!ACTION required

Write to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator the Hon Joe Ludwig by email to joe.ludwig@maff.gov.au or by fax 02 6273 4120; and

to his Parliamentary Secretary the Hon Dr Mike Kelly AM MP by email to parlsec@daff.gov.au or by fax to 02 6277 8556

Write to the Environment Minister, the Hon Tony Burke MP by email to Tony.Burke.MP@aph.gov.au or by fax to 02 6273 6101

Tell the Ministers that:

  • the Australian Sea Lion is an endemic species, found nowhere else in the world. The Australian Government therefore has a responsibility to provide the species with the highest level of protection;
  • you welcome the efforts made to date by the Government, which include 100% observer coverage and closed areas to protect the Australian Sea Lion, but explain that these are not sufficient to allow the recovery of all Australian Sea Lion populations;
  • the Government sanctioning of ' ˜trigger levels' set by AFMA of 104 Australian Sea Lions (or 52 females) is unacceptable for an endemic species listed as vulnerable under federal environmental legislation;
  • the proposed deaths of Australian Sea Lions is contrary to the scientific evidence and advice which calls for the bycatch of Australian Sea Lions to be as close to zero as possible, a figure not only appropriate for conservation reasons but also for welfare to ensure suffering of these animals through drowning in gillnets is minimised;
  • waiting for more data to be available is prolonging the suffering of Australian Sea Lions. More data will not solve this issue with any satisfaction;
  • if fishers claims are correct, that they do not catch Australian Sea Lions, then they should be agreeable to a trigger level of 1 to ensure the recovery of all Australian Sea Lion sub-populations;
  • if increased protection cannot be afforded to the Australian Sea Lion then the Environment Minister must revoke the export approval for the fishery.

Please write as soon as possible!

Further information

  1. In April 2010 a report revealed an estimated 374 Australian Sea Lions are killed each breeding season (17.5 months), or 256 per year, in the Gillnet, Hook and Trap Sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery. The report, Mitigating Seal Interactions in the SRLF and the Gillnet Sector SESSF in South Australia 2007/041 can be downloaded from http://www.frdc.com.au/research/recent-final
  2. 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.
  3. On 1st May 2011, changes were made to fisheries management for the Gillnet, Hook and Trap (GHAT) Sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery to afford better protection to Australian Sea Lions and increase data available on interactions in the fishery with other threatened, endangered and protected species. http://www.afma.gov.au/managing-our-fisheries/fisheries-a-to-z-index/southern-and-eastern-scalefish-and-shark-fishery/notices-and-announcements/changes-in-the-gillnet-hook-and-trap-sector-of-the-southern-and-eastern-scalefish-and-shark-fishery/
  4. The new bycatch triggers per zone can be found at: http://www.afma.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/ASL-zone-triggers-27-April.pdf
  5. The Gillnet, Hook and Trap Sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery targets gummy sharks, which are subsequently sold as flake in fish and chip shops.

Please send us copies of any responses you receive.

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