Fisheries Infosite

New Zealand sea lion (HSL)
Scientific name
Phocarctos hookeri

New Zealand sea lions are endemic to New Zealand, ranging from Macquarie Island to the South Island. Most breeding takes place around the Auckland Islands, with a small amount on Campbell Island, Snares Island and the Otago peninsula. Breeding occurs annually over the summer months.

New Zealand sea lions are classified as ‘Range restricted’ by the New Zealand Department of Conservation, and as ‘Vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There are estimated to be 13,000 individuals in New Zealand.

New Zealand sea lions feed on a wide variety of species including squid, teleosts, elasmobranches, octopus, and other invertebrates. They have also been found to pretty upon fur seals, elephant seals, penguins, and other sea birds. Dives for prey can be as deep as 600m in depth, though most are less than 200m and last 4-5 minutes.

Sea lions in New Zealand were nearly hunted to extinction by Polynesian settlers and European sealers, which led to their disappearance from the mainland 200 years ago. Sea lions are known to drown in trawl nets, with Ministry of Fisheries regulations limiting the number of sea lions allowed to be caught each year. They are also at risk from diseases, with mass epidemics happening three times over the last 7 years.

International Union for Conservation of nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red list

New Zealand Threat Classification System list

DOC threat status: 7 Range restricted
IUCN listing: Vulnerable
Average maturity age: 4
Maximum age: 21
Adult survival average: 95.35
Litter: 1
Reproduction frequency
(per year):
Demographic data source: Females only - sea Conservation Society; Dickie (1999)
Population: 13000
Population source: Suisted & Neale 2004

2 items
Category Environmental impacts
Effects on other species
New Zealand sea lion accidental capture (squid trawling). details
Effects on ecosystem
Predator - prey unbalances within an ecosystem details