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Ministers dismayed at Hector’s dolphin deaths

21 February 2002 Media Statement

Ministers dismayed at Hector’s dolphin deaths

Conservation Minister Sandra Lee and Fisheries Minister Pete Hodgson today expressed extreme dismay at reports of two more deaths of endangered North Island Hector’s dolphins from set netting.

The two dead dolphins, from a protected species population of about 100, were found this week - one entangled in a net at the mouth of the Manukau Harbour, the other also entangled in a set net on Kariotahi Beach, south of the Manukau Heads.

“This is a tragedy for the North Island Hector’s dolphin population,” Ms Lee said. “The low numbers and slow breeding patterns of Hector’s dolphin mean every additional death is speeding the species’ demise.”

There have been 7 known deaths from the critically depleted North Island population in the last 24 months. The ministers will be discussing whether the closure last year of the Auckland-Waikato coast to recreational and commercial set netting is adequate to protect the dolphin.

In August 2001 Mr Hodgson closed the coast from Maunganui Bluff (north of Dargaville) to Pariokariwa Point (near New Plymouth) to all commercial and amateur set netting within four nautical miles of the shore, not including harbours and river mouths. This decision is being challenged in the High Court by fishing interests and the parties to the judicial review hearing have agreed in the interim to a smaller closed area, from the Manukau Harbour south to near Kawhia, again excluding the harbours.

Department of Conservation staff in Auckland are working with the Ministry of Fisheries to identify the owners of the nets that caused the deaths and assess their liability for prosecution. The two dolphins will be autopsied.

The ministers have also recently received the results of an autopsy on a third dolphin found dead just south of the Manukau Heads two weeks ago. The findings were inconclusive due to the damaged state of the carcass, which had been exposed to the environment for some time before being found.

ENDS

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