Protecting the New Zealand sea lion

Find out what Fisheries New Zealand and the Department of Conservation are doing to help sea lion populations recover.

Sea lions are nationally vulnerable

New Zealand sea lions are part of our heritage. They used to be common around the country, but were hunted in the 1800s and almost went extinct. Sea lions have recovered but are still classified as "nationally vulnerable".

To make sure sea lions are around for future generations we need to protect them from disease, environmental change, fishing, and other threats. We're working with the Department of Conservation (DOC) to implement the New Zealand sea lion/rāpoka Threat Management Plan 2017–2022.

A plan to lift population numbers

The threat management plan was developed with the help of tangata whenua, communities, environmental groups, and industry groups. It aims to help sea lion populations recover so that they can be classified as "not threatened".

Disease in breeding colonies on the Auckland Islands is the single greatest threat to sea lions. Other threats include:

  • the direct effects of fishing (for example, sea lions can be caught in trawl nets)
  • changes in food resources
  • poor habitat (for example, pups can drown in mud holes)
  • deliberate killing of sea lions by people

The threat management plan lists the work we will do to learn about these threats, and how we can reduce them.

Download the sea lion threat management plan [PDF, 2.1 MB]

Find out more

DOC has more information about the plan and the background to its development.

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