'Sea lions' come ashore in Wellington

Plight of endangered species highlighted

Last updated 11:14 12/02/2012
Sea Lion
Ross Giblin/ FAIRFAX NZ
MAKING A POINT: Pearl Kynaston, 5, left Sylvie Kynaston, 7 and Zoe Seawright, 4 check out a fake sea lion pup at a Forest and Bird display at Oriental Beach.

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Rare sea lions have come ashore at Wellington's Oriental Bay today - but only in pretend form.

Conservation organisation Forest & Bird has decorated the beach with 100 life-sized cut-outs in an effort to raise awareness of the plight of critically endangered New Zealand sea lions.

New Zealand sea lions are a nationally critical species - the highest-risk classification.

The event comes as police in Otago are investigating after a bullet was discovered beside the decomposed body of a young New Zealand sea lion.

However, today's event is designed to highlight the sea lions killed as by-catch in the squid fishery.

University of Otago senior zoology lecturer Bruce Robertson recently said New Zealand sea lions could be extinct within decades, if the Government accepted Agriculture Ministry advice on managing the species.

MAF has been considering submissions on managing a squid fishery near the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands.

The initial position paper proposes there should be no limit imposed on the number of sea lions accidentally caught in trawling nets in the fishery.

But Dr Robertson said the best evidence showed fishing was the most plausible reason for the species' dramatic population decline.

DOC research had concluded that if the bycatch continued at current levels, New Zealand sea lions could be "functionally extinct" by 2035.

Primary Industries Minister David Carter is expected to make a decision in March.

The fake sea lions will be on the beach from 11am to 1pm. Green MP Gareth Hughes will speak from midday.

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