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Hector's dolphin deaths alarming: set net ban call

Hector's dolphin deaths alarming - immediate set net ban needed

26 February 2001

FOREST AND BIRD MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

Hector's dolphin deaths alarming - immediate set net ban needed

Contact: Eugenie Sage, Regional field officer

Phone 03 3666 317 (wk) or (03) 337 1251 (hme)

The high number of Hector's Dolphin killed in set nets this summer is alarming for a species so close to extinction, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society says.

"Since October last year, five dolphin carcasses or parts of carcasses with net or knife marks consistent with set net entanglement and another net marked dolphin (alive) have been reported on Canterbury beaches," Forest and Bird field officer, Eugenie Sage said.

In 1998, 12 of 19 dolphin carcasses found on Canterbury beaches had net or knife marks and another two dolphins had to be released from a set net.

"This high level of human induced mortality cannot be sustained by a slow breeding species such as Hector's Dolphin. Their population totals less than 4,000 animals. Females have a maximum of five to six calves in their lifetime."

"The number of dead dolphins found in, or close to the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary highlights the need for an immediate ban on all recreational and commercial set nets and much better enforcement measures.

"Far too many dolphins have already drowned during the summer months when set nets are banned in the sanctuary. It would be disastrous if more dolphins were to die when restrictions on recreational set netting end on 28 February," Ms Sage said.

"Unless set nets are outlawed throughout the dolphin's range, the December 1999 gazettal of Hector's Dolphin as a threatened species under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 is of little practical effect," Ms Sage said.

"The actual number dolphin deaths from set nets is likely to be greater than the number of carcasses found. In January, the freshly severed head of a Hector's dolphin with net markings on its snout was found near the Rangitata River mouth. Fishers chop up dolphin carcasses to try and dispose of evidence of set net deaths.

"The set net problem is not confined to Canterbury. On the South Island's West Coast six of eight reported dolphin carcasses in 1999 and two of six reported carcasses in 2000 had marks indicating net entanglement."

Hector's Dolphin are the world's smallest and possibly rarest marine dolphin. They are classified as "endangered" by the IUCN-World Conservation Union.

Forest and Bird is writing to Fisheries Minister Pete Hodgson and Conservation Minister, Sandra Lee calling for:

a.. an urgent ban on set nets under the Fisheries Act 1996. Sections 11 (sustainability measures) and sections 15 and 16 (fishing related mortality) give the Minister the power to ban set nets as a emergency or more permanent measure. b.. expansion of the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary north to Motunau and south to Timaru. c.. the establishment of a new marine mammal sanctuary on the West Coast from Kahurangi Point to Jackson Head. d.. urgent measures to protect the North Island Hector's dolphin population. "As the spectacular popularity of Hector's dolphin watching and swimming operations in Akaroa Harbour demonstrates, people want to see dolphins alive, not drowned in a set net," Ms Sage said.

"New Zealand is well behind the rest of the world in continuing to permit such an indiscriminate fishing method with its deadly bycatch of dolphins, penguins, shags and other marine life.

"The use of monofilament set nets or gill nets in shallow waters is banned in many overseas countries including coastal states of the United States (California, Texas, and Florida), in England, Wales, Scotland, Italy and Greece. In Australia, the use of recreational set nets is banned."

ENDS

Note

The Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary extends from Sumner Head near Christchurch to the Rakaia River mouth and four nautical miles (7.6 kms) out to sea . Commercial set netting is banned in the sanctuary all year round. Recreational set netting is only banned from 1 November to the end of February.

Eugenie Sage Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society PO Box 2516 Christchurch New Zealand Ph 0064 3 3666 317 Fax 0064 3 3660 655 Email sage@chc.forest-bird.org.nz

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