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Overwhelming response delays dolphin decision

29 November 2007

Overwhelming response delays dolphin decision

A huge number of submissions raising complex issues means final decisions on the Hector’s Dolphin Threat Management Plan will not be made until early next year, Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton and Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick announced today.

“We have received 2475 submissions on the draft plan to protect Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins from concerned people all over New Zealand and overseas,” Jim Anderton said.

“People have taken the time to supply us with a considerable amount of information about threats to the dolphins and the possible impacts on commercial, recreational, and customary fishing from the measures proposed. We want to take the time necessary to consider all of this information before we make any decisions.

“Deciding on how best to protect Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins, while recognising the impact of measures on people’s livelihoods, is not a decision to be made lightly or to be rushed. Given the amount of information supplied we expect to make a decision in March of next year, instead of December this year.”

“The overwhelming number of submissions gives us great confidence that people in fishing and environmental communities recognise the importance of these dolphins”, Steve Chadwick said.

“They are a national treasure, or taonga, that we cannot afford to lose. The Maui dolphins are down to just 111 individuals, making it the rarest marine dolphin in the world.”

Jim Anderton said it has also been decided not to introduce immediate interim measures over the summer, because there are a number already in place, and any further measures must also consider the feedback from consultation over the management plan.

“We will be monitoring the situation carefully over the summer months, and if a fishing-related incident occurs that requires urgent action, I have powers to do what is necessary under the Fisheries Act.”

The Ministry of Fisheries is also working with the Department of Conservation on a comprehensive education and awareness campaign to highlight the need for good fishing practice over the summer when the dolphins are closer inshore.

The two departments will continue to monitor compliance with existing mandatory measures for managing the effects of fishing on Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins.
Contact: Liz Grant, Press Secretary to Jim Anderton, 04 471 9172, 021 227 9172 or Helen Vaughan, Press Secretary, (04) 471 9154 or (021) 270 9115
Background:

At 1.4m long, the Maui’s dolphin and Hector’s dolphin are the world’s smallest marine dolphins. The rounded dorsal fin is unique among all 40 species of dolphin and porpoise. Hector’s live close to shore and are short lived (20 years). Over a lifetime a female will only produce a handful of calves. Such a low reproduction rate means Hector’s and Maui dolphin populations will be threatened by only a few more deaths each year than would occur naturally.

Fishing threats to Hector’s dolphins
Set netting is the biggest known threat to Hector’s dolphins. When nets are set in the water to catch fish, the dolphins occasionally swim into them and become entangled. Inshore trawling occasionally catches Hector’s dolphins; and there have also been a few occurrences of these dolphins becoming entangled in rock lobster pot lines in the Nelson/Marlborough region.

Another fishing threat is lost nets drifting in the water. This is considered a particular threat around the Waikato River. Fishers use drift nets to target mullet in the river’s lower reaches, and there is a danger that lost nets may wash downstream into the sea where Maui dolphins live.

Current management of fishing threats
The Government has put a number of measures in place around New Zealand to reduce the threat of fishing to Hector’s dolphins, including in the South Island:
 A Marine Mammal Sanctuary around Banks Peninsula
 A seasonal amateur set net ban between the Waiau and Waitaki Rivers (from 1 October to 31 March, out to four nautical miles from shore)
 A requirement for amateur fishers to stay with their nets when fishing at both Te Waewae Bay and Kaikoura (between the Waiau and Clarence Rivers, from 1 October to 31 March)
To protect Maui’s dolphins in the North Island, commercial and amateur set netting has been banned between Maunganui Bluff (north of Dargaville) and Pariokariwa Point (north of New Plymouth), to a distance of four nautical miles offshore. Set netting has also been banned in the Manukau Harbour entrance.

Other human-induced threats to Hector’s dolphins
Other human-induced threats to Hector’s dolphins being investigated include marine tourism, vessel traffic, pollution, sedimentation, oil spills, plastic bags, marine farming, construction and mining, coastal development and climate change.

New proposed measures
The draft Threat Management Plan recommends a range of potential options for reducing impacts of human activities on Hector’s and Maui dolphins.

A range of options has been put together for each of the four dolphin populations:

- North Island west coast (Maui Dolphin)
- East coast of the South Island (Hector’s Dolphin)
- West coast of the South Island (Hector’s Dolphin)
- South coast of the South Island (Hector’s Dolphin)

The options proposed for each of these areas are on the Ministry of Fisheries’ website: www.fish.govt.nz

ENDS

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