A critically endangered New Zealand sea lion has died after being caught in a fishing net, Forest and Bird says.

A report issued by the Ministry for Primary Industries said the death happened between January 27 and February 2 near the Auckland Islands squid fishing grounds.

Sea lion numbers had fallen since 1998 and they had the country's highest threat ranking, Forest and Bird marine conservation advocate Katrina Subedar said.

"Our sea lions are among New Zealand's most endangered animals - they are in the same category as kakapo.


"New Zealanders wouldn't accept kakapo being killed and Forest and Bird cannot accept New Zealand sea lions being killed by the fishing industry,'' she said.

The sea lions feed in the sub-Antarctic waters where trawlers catch squid and other fish, and unfortunately these fishing vessels capture and kill sea lions, Ms Subedar said.

Forest and Bird has called on the squid fishing industry to start using more sustainable methods.

"We would like the industry to change from trawling - in which sea lions can get caught in the giant nets and drown - to jigging, which uses hooks. Jigging is safe for sea lions and would still allow the fishing industry to catch high-quality squid,'' Ms Subedar said.