Strict regulations could be imposed on a sub-Antarctic fishery after 16 New Zealand sea lions died in trawler nets in the past three weeks.
The deaths occurred in the Southern Blue Whiting fishery near Campbell Island, where last season not a single sea-lion fatality was reported.
Conservation Minister Nick Smith says the high kill rate is unacceptable and trawlers have agreed to use sea-lion exclusion devices on their nets.
He said the device, called a sled, allows trapped sea lions to escape through a hole at the top.
If sea lions continue to die in high numbers, Dr Smith says the Government will consider putting a limit on the number of deaths allowable in a season.
Forest and Bird spokesperson Katrina Subedar says it wants to see the fishery closed to unsustainable fishing practices.
Ms Subedar says some of the trawler crew won't know how to work the sleds properly because they have no experience using them.
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