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    Sea Lions Compete With Humans For Squid; Lose
    By Danna Staaf | December 4th 2011 09:28 PM | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Danna

    Cephalopods have been rocking my world since I was in grade school. I pursued them through a BA in marine biology at the University of California...

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    Today's squid news comprises four journalistic angles on the same story. See if you can figure out what it is:


    So here's the deal. Back in August, a group of kiwi scientists showed that a decline in New Zealand sea lions was largely due to their being caught and drowned in squid fishing nets. That's because sea lions love to eat squid, too, and they're fishing for this delicacy at the same time as humans.

    Until now, there's been a "kill quota", meaning that when the squid fishery kills a certain number of sea lions, the fishery is closed. This year the New Zealand government is proposing to do away with the quota, leading to this final and most inflammatory headline, from a press release:


    The decision to forget the quota is apparently based on the assumption that new "sea lion exclusion devices," or SLEDs, will work to keep sea lions from getting caught in the nets. Is it just me, or is that reasoning a little, um, fishy? If the SLEDs do work, then there's no reason not to keep the kill quota in place--since it'll never be reached.

    Other exclusion devices have had mixed success, and I don't know how effective the SLEDs are. The Greens are skeptical. Forest&Bird, a New Zealand conservation organization, has another suggestion:
    Forest&Bird wants alternative fishing methods such as jigging adopted, which would mean effectively a zero kill quota for sea lions. This would help the recovery of this protected species.
    It's true that jigging has almost zero bycatch. I've seen a whole lot of jigs thrown in the water, and I've only ever twice seen them come up with something other than a squid on them (a jelly and a big fish [no I don't remember what kind--things with backbones all look the same to me]). That's one reason squid fisheries, which are mostly jigging-based, are touted as more intrinsically sustainable than many other net-based or long-line fisheries.

    Of course, none of the articles includes quotes from anyone involved in the government decision or the fishing industry. It would be interesting to hear their side of it.