The New Zealand sea lion has been officially recognised as critically endangered.
The Department of Conservation (DoC) has raised the threatened status of the sea lion to the most endangered category, nationally critical, after a review of 56 species of marine mammal.
There are estimated to be just 9800 sea lions left in the wild, mainly on the sub-Antarctic islands south of New Zealand.
DoC has also lifted the threatened status of the bottlenose dolphin to nationally endangered, the second highest category.
It says more active protection measures will be needed in the longer term to stop the creatures from becoming extinct.