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Maui’s dolphin protected by areas closed to nets

Friday, 24 January 2003 Media Statement

Maui’s dolphin protected by areas closed to set nets

Fisheries Minister Pete Hodgson is banning set nets from inshore waters of the North Island's upper west coast to protect the critically endangered Maui’s dolphin.

All commercial set netting will be banned within four nautical miles of the coast (excluding most harbour areas) from Maunganui Bluff (north of Dargaville) to Pariokariwa Point (north of New Plymouth). Amateur set netting is already banned in this zone. Amateur and commercial set netting will also be banned in the Manukau Harbour entrance west of Puponga Point (Cornwallis) and Kauri Point.

Maui’s dolphin used to be known as the North Island Hector’s dolphin. Recent research has recognised that the North Island dolphins are genetically different from Hector’s dolphins found around the South Island and Maui’s dolphin is now classified as a separate sub-species.

"Available research suggests there may be as few as 100-150 Maui’s dolphins left," Mr Hodgson said. “If we are going to give this unique New Zealand mammal a chance to grow in numbers it is clear that we should minimise deaths from fishing-related causes.”

“I am inclined to seek stakeholder solutions where possible in fisheries management matters. The fishing industry made a commendable effort to develop effective measures to protect Maui’s dolphin. However, in this case I have concluded that there is simply no realistic alternative to a strict ban on set netting in the dolphin’s habitat waters.”

Since March 2001, six dead Maui’s dolphins have been recovered in the Manukau Harbour to Waikato River area. Two were found in nets, with two others showing signs of having been entangled in nets.

Mr Hodgson said he understood that the new ban on set netting would affect some commercial fishers. Recreational set netters will also be affected, particularly by the ban on netting in the Manukau Harbour entrance.

“I regret the difficulty this will cause fishers who rely on set netting for their livelihoods or sustenance, but the critically endangered status of Maui’s dolphin demands a precautionary approach. I hope that the affected fishers will be able to keep fishing with other methods or in other areas, although I acknowledge that some have limited options.”

The new management measures follow extensive consultation with interested parties. Mr Hodgson said he was grateful for the work done by many people towards better protection for Maui’s dolphin, including researchers, environmental organisations, and the Northern Inshore Fisheries Company.

Staff from the Department of Conservation will be conducting further research to determine if Maui’s dolphins are entering other North Island west coast harbours.

Fisheries and Conservation staff will work with the Waikato River community to assess the potential threat from nets lost from the local drift net fishery in the river delta. There is a risk that any lost nets swept out to sea may catch a Maui’s dolphin. There is no information suggesting that Maui’s dolphins are swimming into the Waikato River delta from the open sea, but they are seen frequently outside the river mouth.

A research programme is proposed to examine whether trawling and Danish seine fishing pose a threat to the dolphins. These fishing methods are currently banned within one nautical mile of the coast, and two nautical miles of the seaward side of the harbour entrances on the north-west coast.


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