New Zealand sea lion
The New Zealand sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri) also known as Hooker's sea lion or whakahao in Māori is a species of sea lion that breeds around the coast of New Zealand's South Island and Stewart Island/Rakiura to some extent. The main rookeries are on New Zealand's Sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands where there are three functioning rookeries. Most sea lions are born on Dundas Island. There is a smaller rookery at Sandy Bay on Enderby Island and the smallest rookery is on Figure of Eight Island. An even smaller rookery at South East Point on Auckland Island appears to now have been abandoned. Sea lions are generaly philopatric. They are monotypic of its genus.
Characteristics and taxonomy
New Zealand lions, like all otariids, have marked sexual dimorphism. Adult males are 240-350 cm long and weigh 320-450 kg and adult females are 180-200 cm long and weigh 90-165 kg. At birth, pups are 70-100 cm long and weigh 7-8 kg; the natal pelage is a thick coat of dark brown hair that becomes dark gray with cream markings on the top of the head, nose, tail and at the base of the flippers. Adult females' coats vary from buff to creamy gray with darker pigmentation around the muzzle and the flippers. Adult males are blackish-brown with a well-developed black mane of coarse hair reaching the shoulders.
There was thought to be a population of around 15,000 in the mid-1990s. Estimates (based on the number of pups born) were about 9,000 for 2008.
In 2010 the Department of Conservation - responsible for marine mammal conservation - changed the New Zealand Threat Classification System ranking from Nationally Endangered to Nationally Critical.
Though the Auckland Island sea lion pup production is highly variable, a decline trend for some years followed the outbreak of the introduced bacterial disease Campylobacter in 1998 which killed an estimated 53 per cent of newborn pups and 20 per cent of adult females. In 2002, another introduced bacterial disease Klebsiella pneumonae killed 32 per cent of pups, and in 2003 another 21 per cent of the pups.
The Department of Conservation estimates that Auckland Islands' sea lions  could be functionally extinct by 2035. However the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries considers the research on which this prediction is based is ‘confusing’, ‘conflicting’, ‘indecipherable’ and ‘low quality’ and ‘should not be used in management decisions.’
The January 2013 sea lion pup production count on the Auckland Islands showed the number of pups born on the islands has risen to 1931, from the 2012 figure of 1684. The 2013 number is the highest in five years.  Dead pups are also counted, since the annual pup count is used to assess the population of breeding females, but not future births when the counted pups mature.
For the first time in 150 years sea lions began breeding again on the South Island coast in 1994, on the Otago Peninsula. The Otago sea lion population is currently small but estimated to reach 1000 animals by 2044, leading to issues of ‘marine protected areas, local fishing quotas and numbers management.’ 
Other small populations of breeding sea lions have recently begun to establish in various parts of the Stewart Island coastline.
Bycatch and the introduction of SLEDs
In the 1990s, as the volume of squid fishing round the Auckland Islands increased, numbers of sea lions were captured as bycatch and drowned in the squid trawl nets. The government imposed a limit to the number which could be caught in a season.
A 2004 Court of Appeal of New Zealand judgement, Squid Fishery Management Company v Minister of Fisheries (7 April 2004) CA 39/04, overturned a decision by the Minister of Fisheries that only 62 sea lions could be taken as bycatch by squid fishers, based on advice from the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries. The Court increased the bycatch to 124 sea lions in the 2004 season, saying the Minister's imposition of the lower figure (one of the lowest ever imposed in the 20-year history of such restrictions) was going beyond what section 15(2) of the Fisheries Act 1996 required and the original limit was beyond the legislative requirements of what was necessary to avoid, remedy or mitigate the effect of fishing related mortality on the sea lion population. There have been on average four sea lions observed captured in the nets in the nine seasons since then.
In 2001, the sea lion exclusion device (SLED) was introduced into the Auckland Island squid fishery to reduce sea lion bycatch. Since 2007, all vessels are equipped with SLEDS. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lBHIBMULhI&feature=channel&list=UL
The proportion of government observers on the squid vessels has increased over the years. In late March 2013 there are 15 vessels operating in the fishery with 88% of the tows being observed for sea lion captures.
In late February 2013 the first observed sea lion mortalities in the Auckland Island squid fleet in three years occurred. On two separate occasions, pre-adult sea lions appeared to have slipped through the grid at the opening of the net into its cod end. The 23cm grid aperture is designed to hold adult sea lions in the SLED and yet still allow squid to pass into the net. Fishing experience has shown such young sea lions very rarely enter nets.
Some scientists still do not believe sea lions survive the interaction with a SLED. though it is the view of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) that the use of a SLED, "adequately manages the risk of fishing to the sea lion population. The most recent research strongly suggests that the direct effect of fishing-related mortality on the sea lion population is minimal..." MPI has concluded that a sea lion has a 97 per cent probability of surviving a SLED escape.
On 13th Feb, Green Party, oceans spokesperson, Gareth Hughes called on the fishing industry to extend the use of SLEDS to protect fur seals and dolphins.
A fortnight later NIWA marine scientist Malcolm Francis is reported to have called for the use of SLED technology in by catch mitigation devices for releasing sharks from nets not intended for them.
MPI cites research on necropsy data, video footage and biomechanical modelling over the last decade to support its conclusion that SLEDs are working to ensure a negligible impact on the sea lion population. MPI has relied on extensive peer review for its evaluation of research in this fishery, including independent panels of international experts and has been evaluated as meeting the 2011 approved Fisheries Research Standard.
A government and industry Technical Working Group has set criteria for managing the squid fishery to provide for the sea lion numbers to increase to more than 90 per cent of carrying capacity.
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