Recovering sea lion/rāpoka populations

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

Sea lions are nationally vulnerable

The New Zealand sea lion/rāpoka is a protected species. Found only in New Zealand, they are a taonga for tangata whenua – a highly valued treasure for Māori.

Rāpoka used to be common all around the coastline of New Zealand. But after they were hunted in the 1800s they almost went extinct. Only small breeding colonies remained on the subantarctic Auckland Islands and Campbell Island.

The sea lion population has been recovering. They are now classified as "nationally vulnerable". Today, sea lions are breeding on Stewart Island and on the Otago and Southland coastlines.

Read more about New Zealand sea lions / rāpoka – DOC

A plan to lift population numbers

Our threat management plan was developed jointly with DOC. It was also developed with the help of tangata whenua, communities, environmental groups, and industry groups.

Sea lion/rāpoka threat management plan: 2017–2022 [PDF, 2.1 MB]

The plan aims to help sea lion populations recover. Our goal is for them to be classified as "not threatened".

To make sure sea lions are around for future generations, we're working with the DOC to manage threats such as:

  • disease in breeding colonies on the Auckland Islands – the single greatest threat
  • the direct effects of fishing (for example, sea lions can be caught in trawl nets)
  • changes in food resources
  • poor breeding habitat (for example, pups can drown in mud holes on the islands)
  • deliberate killing of sea lions by people.

The threat management plan lists the work we are doing to learn more about these threats and how we can reduce them.

Find out about sea lion deaths in trawl nets and how Fisheries New Zealand is trying to stop this

Who to contact

If you have questions about sea lions/rāpoka, email

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