A fisheries plan to further limit sea lion deaths in squid fishing nets is being welcomed by conservationists as a first step.
Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash has released the southern squid fishing plan which reduces the annual kill limit for sea lions from 68 to 38.
The fishery must be closed if any more deaths are recorded.
Environmental organisation WWF New Zealand described it as a first step towards ensuring the animals' survival.
"But the progress cannot stop here," said chief executive Livia Esterhazy." The latest science shows that for sea lions to recover, we need to reduce the number accidentally killed in fishing nets to something very close to zero."
Forest and Bird spokesperson Geoff Keey said though the limit was progress, the critically endangered New Zealand sea lion could still be gone in this lifetime if more was not done.
"Next time round, the plan needs to be based on a zero bycatch goal."
He said the squid fishing industry should be moving away from trawl nets and using 'jigging' - lines with multiple hooks cast from the side of a boat - to avoid sea lion bycatch.