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83% agree with current Maui's dolphin protections

15 April 2008

83% of New Zealanders agree with current protections for Maui’s dolphins

Most New Zealanders will be very pleased to know that the critically endangered Maui’s Dolphin is already protected within its main habitat range, said New Zealand Seafood Industry Council Chief Executive Owen Symmans.

The dolphin species found only on the West Coast of the North Island is already protected from fishing activities by a fishing restriction that has been in place since 2002, Mr Symmans said.

“Questions posed in a survey commissioned by WWF found that more than four out of five people support banning set nets and trawl nets in areas where Maui’s dolphins live. The 83% of respondents who supported it will be pleased to know that current Government policy is already in place to protect Maui’s dolphins. There have been no deaths of Maui’s dolphins attributed to fishing since the set-net ban was put in place.”

“We accept the need for restrictions where the future of an endangered dolphin species is affected – but we cannot support unnecessary and pointless restrictions. Extending the ban into harbours will ruin people’s lives. The dolphins do not go there. It will not protect a dolphin that is already protected from fishing interaction. It is nonsensical to ban fishing where they do NOT live.”

Mr Symmans said that it needed to be clarified that there are two different species facing quite different issues being lumped together in an emotive lobbying campaign.

Maui’s dolphins are the ones that live on the West Coast of the North Island and were protected from fishing interaction in 2002 with the introduction of set netting restrictions, he said. Hector’s dolphins are the ones that live around the South Island and are not endangered.

Industry supports codes of practice – currently in place to mitigate interactions with Hector’s dolphins. We support further research on this species to ensure that appropriate and effective decisions can be made to ensure they do not become at risk. Claims that they are seriously at risk from recreational or commercial fishing activities are just that: claims. These claims must be verified by credible research to ensure effective and appropriate decisions are made.


Commercial fishers go to great lengths to avoid catching dolphins, with the use of technology and surveillance of nets, as well as closing various areas to set-netting and trawling.
The impact of the proposed Marine Mammal Sanctuaries would mean that the 200 set net fishermen operating in the North Island West Cost Harbours would be put out of business. There is no evidence to show that Maui’s dolphins enter these harbours.
Department of Conservation facts:
- Between 1988 and 2003 there were two Maui’s dolphin deaths attributed to net entanglement out of a total of 17 notified deaths.
- Since 2003, when a set-net ban was established for four nautical miles, there have been no reported net entanglements. Maui’s Dolphins are already protected within their entire range under this ban.
- Since 1992 there have been 123 confirmed deaths of Hector’s dolphins - 29 attributed to commercial fishing.

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