Fisheries Infosite

Environmental Issue

 Middle depth trawl - Fur seal accidental capture

Fur seals sometimes get caught in trawl nets and drown.
New Zealand fur seals are a protected species, and listed by the Department of Conservation as 'Not Threatened'. The risk to the fur seal population from trawl fishing is not known.
Extent of the issue
Fur seals are sometimes caught by vessels in the winter spawn fisheries for hoki (west coast South Island) and southern blue whiting (Bounty Islands). We have some observer coverage in these fisheries and a reasonable idea of the number of seal deaths.
In most places, fur seal numbers around New Zealand coasts have been steadily increasing in recent years (20 to 30 years). However, there are no apparent trends in seal deaths within the hoki and southern blue whiting fisheries.
Current management
An agreed government/industry Marine Mammal Operating Procedure sets out voluntary measures, which are employed by vessels, to reduce risk to fur seals and other marine mammals from fishing. This includes things like removing fish stuck in net mesh (‘stickers’), so fur seals are not attracted to enter the net as it is being set. Industry and government are currently working on ways to further address the issue.
Future management
Industry has -with help from government - recently completed and census of South Island west coast fur seal popuations. This will be used to inform future management actions. 
Documents / links
Marine Mammal Operating Procedure. Dragonfly report, Science Plenary