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Government preparing plan to save dolphins

26 August 2005

Government preparing plan to save New Zealand's endangered dolphins

Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope says he expects a management plan for New Zealand's endangered Maui’s and Hector’s dolphin to be ready by Christmas.

The South Island Hector’s dolphin population is estimated to number 7,270 and the Maui’s dolphin population is estimated at 111 individuals.

"Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins are threatened by even low levels of mortality due to slow reproduction rates and low potential for population growth," said Mr Benson-Pope. "Risks include fishing-related mortality, boat strike, noise, pollution, disease, climate, and tourism impacts."

He says existing conservation measures, including several area closures under the Marine Mammals Protection Act and Fisheries Act, and voluntary codes of practice by the fishing industry, were helping but a more co-ordinated approach was needed.

Mr Benson-Pope says the Ministry of Fisheries and the Department of Conservation are jointly developing a Threat Management Plan to manage the threats to Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins.

"The Plan will address all significant risks and we hope will include commitments from stakeholders to mitigate those risks," said the Minister.

"The draft goals of the Plan are to ensure the long-term viability of Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins. We want to reduce impacts of human activities as far as possible, taking into account advances in technology, knowledge, and financial implications."

The draft Plan will be developed with the assistance of an Advisory Group comprising representatives from the commercial and recreational fishing sectors, environmental groups, local government, scientists, iwi and the tourism industry.

Due to the threat posed to Maui's Dolphin, in April this year Mr Benson-Pope confirmed the closure to all commercial and amateur set net fishing on the West Coast of the North Island between Maunganui Bluff, north of Dargaville, to Pariokariwa Point, north of New Plymouth, out to four nautical miles. Breaches by amateur fishers carry a penalty of fines up to $20,000 and forfeiture of boats and equipment and commercial breeches carry fines up to $100,000.


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