Thursday, April 25, 2024

DOC appeal after sea lion shot dead

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is appealing for information after a female New Zealand sea lion/pakake was shot and killed near Dunedin last week.

The two-year-old sea lion was found by a member of the public on the harbour side of Aramoana Beach on Wednesday 30 August. Necropsy results show she had been shot, the Department has confirmed today.

It says the female sea lion was born in Aramoana on New Year’s Day in 2021 and was well known to the local community.

DOC Operations Manager for Coastal Otago, Gabe Davies says the incident has been upsetting and a “horrific find”.

“New Zealand sea lions are among the rarest sea lion species in the world and it’s a privilege to share our coastlines with them,” said Mr Davies.

“They’re classified as ‘Nationally Vulnerable’ and protected – and a taonga species for Ngāi Tahu. They should be able to live in their natural habitat without the threat of human aggression and violence.”

The loss of this sea lion was all the more disappointing given she had not yet had a chance to breed and help grow the vulnerable Otago population, he said.

“There are currently only 30 breeding-age females on the Otago Peninsula. Last year, we had 21 pups born; of these only five  females survived. Females who survive to breeding age, which is around four years old, are very precious, and this sea lion was well on her way there.”

“This event is particularly devastating for the community and the people who closely monitor the local population and have followed this sea lion’s life journey closely.”

DOC, alongside mana whenua, Fisheries NZ, conservation groups, and the community are currently reviewing the Sea Lion Threat Management Plan (TMP). A clear objective of the TMP is to prevent any intentional acts of harm to sea lions.

New Zealand Sea Lion Trust co-chair Shaun McConkey says the whole situation is heartbreaking and was completely unnecessary.

“Coastal communities in Otago have really begun to understand and embrace the natural return of sea lions to our shores in recent years. Awareness and appreciation have been growing, so it’s hugely disappointing that there are still individuals out there undermining that work.”

Te Rūnanga ō Ōtākou Manager Nadia Wesley-Smith says to think someone may have intentionally maimed this pakake is absolutely devastating.

“Sea lions have always been here in the harbour beaches, though in small numbers in recent times. Individual losses such as this represent the absence of future generations.”

It’s an offence under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 to disturb, harass, harm, injure or kill a New Zealand sea lion, people could face imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years, a fine not exceeding $250,000, or both.

Anyone who has any information is encouraged to contact 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).               

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