Following a 12-month battle with the Government,The Advertiser won an appeal for still images from the videos to be released after complaining about their secret status to the Information Commissioner and agreeing to keep secret the identities of the fishermen and vessels.
The Federal Government said its attempt to hide the pictures was to protect the safety of fishermen involved.
The images show traumatised Australian sea lions, including pups, many with cut and bloodied mouths caused by their struggles in the nets. Other images show carcasses being dumped overboard.
The Australian Fisheries Management Authority was pressured to install video cameras on fishing vessels after scientists found between 193-227 marine mammals a year were being slaughtered by careless fishing techniques on commercial boats in South Australian waters
Greens Senator Penny Wright said the public should not have to battle with authorities to make the images public.
“South Australians would be appalled if they knew that dolphins and sea lions were killed in the production of flake bought at the local fish and chip shop,” Senator Wright said.
She said the Australian seal lion was protected for ecological reasons and also played a major role in tourism in locations such as Kangaroo Island.
The nets are designed to capture sharks that are sold as flake meat in fish shops.
The AFMA claims the slaughter of sea lions has eased following restrictions on deploying shark nets near sea lion colonies.
However, some scientists disagree. Humane Society International spokeswoman Alexia Wellbelove said many people would be angered to know that sea lions and dolphins died in order for them to eat their fish and chips.
“The sea lion will swim into the net … and they will roll around and struggle to get out and become trapped more. It is an awful way to die,” Ms Wellbelove said.
The Advertiser began its battle for the release of the images in February last year.
The Information Commissioner ruled that AFMA had no grounds to block the release still images of the dead and dying sea lions.