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Trawler sighting makes a mockery of assurances

Press Release 31 January 2002

Trawler sighting makes a mockery of fishers’ assurances

The sighting of two boats pair trawling within an area proposed for a set netting ban to protect the critically endangered North Island Hector’s dolphin, flies in the face of fishers’ assurances that they do not pair trawl in the dolphins’ range.

WWF, the conservation organisation, is laying a complaint with the Ministries of Fisheries and Conservation over the sighting of the boats at Sunset Beach, Port Waikato.

“Pair trawling is extremely dangerous for dolphins”, explains WWF Director of Conservation Chris Howe. “It consists of two boats suspending one net between them and trawling with it. When dolphins swim between the boats they become confused - because of the sound - and are unable to swim away. There is a major danger of entanglement and drowning.”

“What makes this sighting all the more distressing at the present time, is that Northern Inshore Fisheries is appealing a proposed ban on set netting within the dolphins’ range. One of the provisions of the ban is 100% observer coverage on trawlers, which Northern Inshore Fisheries is also objecting to.”

“Fishers in the area have repeatedly assured us and the Ministry of Fisheries that they do not pair trawl in the range of the North Island Hector’s dolphin”, says Chris Howe. “This is patently untrue.”

“WWF believes that any kind of trawling within the dolphin’s range should be banned. There could be as few as one hundred North Island Hector’s dolphins left - they are the world’s rarest marine dolphin. We must act as decisively as possible to save them from extinction.”

ENDS

NOTES

- Members of the public reported the trawling to the WWF Sightings and Strandings Network, 0800 HECTORS, set up especially to encourage people to report sightings of the dolphins.

- The trawlers were fishing within one kilometre of land; well within the dolphins’ range.

- North Island Hector’s dolphins are the world’s smallest, rarest marine dolphin. They are genetically distinct from the South Island populations and do not interbreed with them.

- Northern Inshore Fisheries’ appeal against the set netting ban is due to be heard in the Wellington High Court on February 17-18.

- There are currently no plans to include trawlers in the ban within the dolphins’ range.

For further information contact:

Megan Huber, Communications Manager, WWF New Zealand

Tel: (04) 499-2930 Fax: (04) 499-2954 Megan.huber@wwf.org.nz


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