photo by Larry Meade (Flickr CC)

Sea lion populations have declined in New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands by 40% between 1998 and 2009.

The islands are one of only two breeding locations for sea lions in New Zealand. The other location, Campbell Island, saw a gradual increase of pups during that same period.

Reasons for the Auckland decline may be partly environmental, but research from New Zealand’s University of Otago suggests that the main culprit is the local squid fishing industry.

From Science Alert:

Researchers noted that the Auckland Islands has a strong squid fishing industry within range of the sea lions, where as Campbell Island has no fishery operating close enough to cause a problem for its breeding colony. The Auckland islands squid fishery is trawler based, using large towed nets.

In Australia sea lions face a similar problem. The oceanic mammals have faced slaughter at the hands of gun-wielding fishermen and hazardous marine debris, such as old netting and packing tape. But as with New Zealand, it is mostly industrial fishing practices that threaten them.

From an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald:

A Victorian Department of Primary Industries report in 2008 said, baldly, that on average 720 seals were caught each year by trawlers in Australia’s South East Trawl Fishery, and about 70 per cent of these died.

However, there has been a spot of recent good news for sea lions.

In Marin County, California, the Marine Mammal Center just released its 10,000th and 10,001st rehabilitated sea lions.

The sea lions were suffering from a bacterial infection when they were picked up on the Santa Cruz shoreline.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Since it was established in 1975 at a former Nike missile site in the Marin Headlands, the nonprofit center has saved 16,000 mammals, including sea lions, elephant seals, sea otters and even whales. The center has also made groundbreaking discoveries about mammal health, such as the physical and behavioral effects of domoic acid, a potent biotoxin produced by certain types of ocean algae.

For more on the sea lion release in California and the important work of the Marine Mammal Center check out this article by the Associated Press/Huffington Post or visit the center’s homepage, where you can even adopt a seal.