Summer 2023 Newsletter

Catch up on a 2023 overview, reflections on 30 years of pakake, road safety, prepping for pupping, our AGM, the threat management plan, our end of season meeting, and outreach.


Haere mai,
Another year is coming to an end which for many means a chance to get away, spend time with whānau, relax, and eat too much food. For sea lions it means kids having to leave home and make it on their own, females looking for a nice quiet place to have a new pup, and males trying to find where the females are hiding away. For us it means a busy time of the year also trying to find where the females are hiding, trying to keep them safe from traffic as they cross roads, and limiting disturbance from people if they are in public places.
Thank you for your mahi in helping protect pakake, and thank you for your ongoing support,
Happy Holidays and Meri Kirihimete from the team at NZSLT.

- 2023 started with another 20 pups being born around Dunedin, 4 pups born in The Catlins and one in between. Unfortunately, 8 pups died or disappeared before naming took place.
- Meanwhile, down in the subantarctic the pup count declined by 30% to its lowest on record. This triggered a review of the SQU6T Fishery management (read more below).
- Our Wild Dunedin Pub Quiz became a Wild Dunedin Museum Quiz and was a very successful fundraising event.
- Our team continued to change as John stepped down as Treasurer and Trustee (a role that Mike Neill offered to take on) and Chloe Barker also stepped up as a Trustee.
- Simon Childerhouse came and gave a presentation after our AGM based on his years of subantarctic sea lion work for DoC.
- The Trust participated in the TMP Forum and two TMP review sessions (read more below)
- A couple of Science Communication students made a film “Guardian of the Sea Lions” starring Janet Ledingham (read more below).
- There have been several community engagements including field trips with school groups, community meetings, beach clean-ups, a mocktail night and a kindergarten visit (read more below)
- The Summer of 2023/24 is the 30-year anniversary of Katya’s birth – Mum’s first pup. One of our supporters, Chelsea, did a fundraising walk in memory of “Mum” (read more below)

2023 wrap-up

Chelsea McGaw got the 30 Year Anniversary celebrations off to a great start with a fundraising walk from Dunedin to Taieri River Mouth. The Mission for Mum commemorated Mum’s regular journey from Taieri River Mouth where she gave birth to her 11 pups to Dunedin where she then raised them. Great job Chelsea! We really appreciate the effort, advocacy and of course funds.

30 Year Anniversary

Chelsea on her way to Taiari/Taieri Mouth, and very fittingly carrying a pup of her own along the way.

Words from Co-Chair Shaun McConkey:
The Anniversary is also a reminder of how long I have been working with sea lions. My first project for my marine science degree was to follow Katya (Mum’s first pup) and record the amount of time she spent on different behaviours. That experience made Victory Beach my favourite place in New Zealand and of course made sea lions my favourite animal. Sometimes, I would be searching for Katya amongst the sand dunes and as I came over a rise she would spot me. For me to be able to record natural behaviours she had to be unaware of my presence, so I would sneak away and try to approach from a different direction. As I returned to the original spot I would see tracks leading away and a few metres further on there was Katya trying to find me by following my tracks through the dunes. I feel very privileged to have arrived in Dunedin at the time I did and to have witnessed Katya begin to have her own pups and for them to have theirs to the point where I now can’t remember them all. What a wonderful position to be in!

Once again, our female sea lions are trying to find nice quiet places to pup away from the males. Unfortunately, this often leads them further from the beach than usual and Gem has already been seen crossing the main coastal road near Brighton, Paige is back near Brighton too and another female, Tui, has been seen across the road near Aramoana. So please, PLEASE, be careful driving along coastal roads this summer and watch out for our girls. If you see a sea lion near a road, please call 0800 DOC HOT.

Road Safety

Our female sea lions have once again been seen at a few of their usual hang-outs prior to pupping, but, as mentioned our road safety message, they have also been turning up further afield so we are expecting them to extend their pupping range further north and south of Dunedin. So, keep an eye out, and please let us know if you see any pups. As always we would like to record as many of the birth sites as possible and work out which of our females have become mothers. Please get in touch at if you would like any information or support from us over the breeding season, and write to Catherine at if you are keen to volunteer next year.

Prepping for Pupping

Looks like it's going to be yet another busy time at Hoopers Inlet!

Other than the required acts such as accepting the financial statement and annual report, all of our trustees agreed to stay on for another year.

2023 AGM

The Trust Board currently consists of:
Co-chair/Trustee Bryony Alden
Co-chair/Trustee Shaun McConkey
Trustee Hanna Ravn
Treasurer/Trustee Mike Neill
Trustee Hannah Zwalue
Trustee Chloe Barker

The public talk was then delivered by Simon Childerhouse who completed his PhD on sea lions back in 2008 and has led multiple trips to the subantarctic islands to collect data on the sea lions there. He presented insights from his research trips including from a recent study in The Catlins showing where female sea lions were feeding. Simon also emphasised the need for regular monitoring of the subantarctic population. We look forward to working with Simon in his current role as scientific advisor for the Environmental Law initiative.

Trust representatives attended the TMP Forum which this year combined with the ongoing review of the TMP document. We are concerned about the lack of discussion over the record low pup counts in the subantarctic for the 2022/23 breeding season. The general consensus seemed to be: let’s wait till we have more information. We are also concerned that the review of the TMP has dominated discussions and taken over the normal Forum process. As always we will continue to try and push for the Forum to be an opportunity for relevant parties to discuss and solve local sea lion issues.

Squid Fishery Management
Because of the low sea lion pup count for the 2022/23 breeding season MPI was obliged to review it’s management of the SQU6T Fishery. The management options they put forward for public consultation were:

1. Using an FRML of 48 or 24 sea lions
2. Having a minimum observer coverage of 50% or 70%
3. Reviewing the management plan in 5 or 10 years

The Trust was disappointed that these were the only options presented. Neither observer coverage nor duration of the management plan will change the fishing effort or the effect it has on sea lions. Because the number of sea lions estimated to be caught in the squid fishery is only around 8 or 9, changing the limit (FRML), even halving it to 24 will also not reduce the fishing effort. The Trust suggested, as an alternative, reducing the overlap between fishing and sea lion feeding by extending the marine mammal sanctuary or implementing no-fishing zones. We assume a decision has been made but have not heard anything.

Threat Management Plan

Once again, we took the opportunity to meet with local community groups to celebrate the season and receive feedback on how we can help locals to look after their sea lion more effectively. As usual this was celebrated with cake and thanks to a couple of talented artistic assistants the cake had quite a bit of nice detail. It was of course a likeness of our local sea lion, Cockle.

End of Seaon Meeting

Looks like it's going to be yet another busy time at Hoopers Inlet!

Guardian of the sea lions film
This year, two Science and Communication students, Stephanie Guest and Shania Riethmann, produced a short film starring Janet Ledingham, called Guardian of the sea lions. It has been shown at a few film festivals so far including Wild Earth Oceania, the Wildlife Film Festival, and the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival

Cocktails and Science Night
Hanna Ravn made the most of the opportunities at a recent “On the Rocks” cocktail evening hosted by University of Otago Science Communication students. She was able to test audience knowledge of local seal and sea lion species, and test how well people can actually judge a 10m distance. Alongside Ursula Ellenberg from the Department of Marine Science and Hannah Zwalue from Department of Conservation, they were able to share important ocean conservation knowledge and stories. Thank you to those of you who attended the event!

Sea Lion Lilliput library/St Kilda kindergarten
In early December, the Trust visited Saint Clair Kindergarten to celebrate the recent opening of their new Lilliput library. The library features pakake, kororā, among other coastal wildlife, and was painted by Rachael McCoubrey - the author of 'Saint Clair Splash'. The Department of Conservation assisted the Trust with the provision of 'Sandy', a taxidermy sea lion. This gave the children an opportunity to see a sea lion up close and was a great conversation starter. The Trust education lead, Hanna Ravn, talked to the children about pakake use of the local area. All of the children reported seeing sea lions before and excitedly shared their stories of seeing them. Then it was story time and what better story to be read than 'Saint Clair Splash'. The visit was a great opportunity for the Trust to reach children in a community that often encounters sea lions and it is hoped the children will be great ambassadors for pakake/sea lions to their friends and family.

We are always keen to work with schools and the community - often at no cost or for a small koha. Raise us a flipper at to chat more. 


If you are still after a last-minute Christmas present then consider one of our 2024 calendars or perhaps one of our stylish t-shirts. For those in Ōtepoti Dunedin, we can deliver calendars before Christmas and there are some t-shirts in stock at Water-cooled Sports if you want to try one on for size. There are also sea lion soft toys and sea lion t-shirts produced by Tumblewood Teeswith $5 from every sale going to the Trust.

Last Minute Gifts?