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SI set net fishers urged to set nets carefully

22 December 2005 Media release

South Island set net fishers urged to set nets carefully

Fishers who use set nets in the South Island are being urged to be extremely careful in their use of set nets this summer following the recent deaths of a number of Hector's dolphins. While set netting is not allowed in Canterbury waters over summer months (October to March), it is allowed in most other areas of the South Island.

Just this week 2 Hector's dolphins were killed in set nets off the Otago coast, and 4 were killed in November off the West Coast. The fishers involved in this week's event did the right thing and reported the incident to the Ministry of Fisheries, however, it is even more important that fishers take measures to avoid killing these endangered mammals.

The Ministry of Fisheries and the Department of Conservation have teamed up to spread the word over the dangers that set nets pose to the dolphins, a threatened species found only in New Zealand waters.

The Hector's dolphin is the world's smallest, and one of the rarest, marine dolphins. The South Island has around 7,000 Hector's dolphins with approximately 5,400 of these on the West Coast. Nets set by recreational fishers are one of the biggest threats to the sustainability of the species.

"A total population figure of 7200 may look reasonable, but Hector's dolphins have a low rate of reproduction - just sufficient to replace the population. It is not sufficient to cope with human-caused deaths.

"Females need to reach eight years before they can give birth and they then produce around five calves over an average lifetime of 20 years.

"I have asked the Ministry to review the use of set netting particularly in areas of high risk to threatened and/or endangered species.

"Anyone planning on using a set net should familiarise themselves with the Set Net Code of Practice on the Ministry of Fisheries website: www.fish.govt.nz. However, as a general guide:
- Avoid open beaches.
- Don’t set net if dolphins are present.
- No overnight netting.
- Stay near your net.
- Check your net regularly.
- Keep your net set taut.
- Set your nets for as short a time as possible.
- Maintain your gear in good repair.
- Keep an eye out for dolphins.
- Remove your net if dolphins turn up," Jim Anderton said.

The Government is working on a Threat Management Plan, run jointly by Department of Conservation and the Ministry of Fisheries in conjunction with an advisory group. The aim is to better define threats to all dolphin populations and how to best manage those threats, including those posed by recreational set net fishing.

If you have any questions regarding the setting of your net, contact your local DOC or MFish office.

ENDS

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