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Black Cat Cruises calls on Gov to protect Hector's Dolphins

Award-winning eco-tourism operator Black Cat Cruises has commissioned the first research ever done on the economic value of dolphin tourism to both New Zealand and Canterbury.

The research reveals that Hector’s dolphin eco-tourism is worth almost $25 million to the New Zealand economy each year, with another $3-$6 million in associated tourist activity. This sustains the equivalent of 476 jobs in the national economy.

However this income and hundreds of jobs, and the dolphins themselves, are at risk unless stronger action is taken to protect Hector’s dolphins, says Black Cat Cruises Chair Paul Bingham.

Early in 2018, five Hector’s were accidentally killed in one fishing net off Banks Peninsula, while another six dolphins were caught in nets after that. As a result, the Fisheries Minister, Hon Stuart Nash and the Conservation Minister, Hon Eugenie Sage accelerated work to review the Threat Management Plan for the Hector’s (and Māui) dolphins. Recommendations from the review will go out for public comment later this month, with a final recommendation to Ministers expected later in the year.

Black Cat Cruises supports the Threat Management Plan review and actively participated in its consultation phase last year. The company is calling for the Government to ensure increased protection for Hector’s dolphins is written into the Threat Management Plan.

Specifically, Black Cat Cruises is asking the Government to:
• extend the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary (introduced in 1988 and extended in 2008) to cover more of the South Island coastline
• ban set nets in the harbours, and
• extend the current commercial fishing exclusion area out to a depth of 100 metres (around 32 km).

Black Cat Cruises Chair, Paul Bingham says, “The total Hector’s dolphin population is estimated to be between 10-15,000 dolphins – down around 74% over the last 30 years. Their greatest man-made threat is fishing nets, which account for almost two thirds of identifiable Hector’s dolphin deaths. Dolphins swim into the nets and quickly drown if they can’t get back out again. NIWA estimates that up to 100-150 Hector’s and Maui dolphins are drowned in set nets every year.”

To find out how much tourism activity is associated with Hector’s dolphins, and the amount of associated economic activity generated by that tourism, Black Cat Cruises commissioned Market Economics to do an economic impact assessment.

Based on the economic impact which can be attributed to Hector’s dolphins, the wider value of Hector’s eco-tourism (eco-tourism and wider tourism spend) is estimated at between $22.2 million and $24.9 million in annual value added which sustains the equivalent of between 473 to 530 jobs in the Canterbury economy. The wider value of Hector’s eco-tourism is estimated as being between $27.9 million and $31.3 million in value added which sustains the equivalent of between 541 to 607 jobs in the national economy.

“The presence of the Hector’s dolphins sustains eco-tourism, so we can assume less dolphins is likely to mean less eco-tourism activity,” says Paul Bingham.

“We are one of seven eco-tourism operators that rely on the presence of the Hector’s dolphins to attract tourists. We all feel very protective of these very special mammals and the unique contribution they make to our lives, our culture and our environment.

“Their steadily declining numbers show us they face a very real threat. We have an opportunity to do something about this and Black Cat Cruises is determined to do all it can to increase awareness of the threat. I don’t want to look back in years to come and have to say we could have done more to protect Hector’s dolphins,” says Paul Bingham.

“We also have New Zealand’s national and international conservation reputation to uphold.”

As well as making its own submission to the Threat Management Plan review, Black Cat Cruises is encouraging wider awareness of the opportunity to give the dolphin’s better protection.

Commentaries on Black Cat Cruises highlight the threat to Hector’s dolphins and the company’s website gives people an opportunity to make a very simple and easy contribution to the current consultation.

“We understand that not everyone wants to sit down and write a submission or to go to a meeting. That doesn’t mean that people don’t care. We’ve provided a place on our website where people can fill in their details and we will send a postcard on their behalf to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, calling for better protection for Hector’s dolphins. All it takes is a few clicks and entering some very basic information. Every voice counts,” says Paul Bingham.

“Protection of the dolphins is good for the dolphins, good for our environment and will also have a positive impact on eco-tourism and other tourism-related businesses in and around their natural habitat, as well as further afield. What is good for them is good for us all.

“This consultation is potentially a once in a lifetime opportunity to take an active role in protecting an endangered species. How many of us would want to pass up on that opportunity?”

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