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Need to improve safety for common dolphins

Hon Jim Anderton
Minister of Fisheries
Hon Steve Chadwick
Minister of Conservation

29 January 2008 Media Statement

Need to improve safety for common dolphins

The Labour-led government is working closely with fishers on improving dolphin-safe fishing practices after 22 common dolphins died in trawl nets in December, off the west coast of the North Island.

Four boats trawling for jack mackerel were involved in the dolphin deaths. Common dolphins and fishing vessels are attracted to the same area, particularly in December, which is the peak of the jack mackerel trawl fishing season.

Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick says it is not uncommon for dolphins to be captured in this fishery, but it is unusual to have such a high number of reported incidental deaths in just one month.

“Twenty two reported deaths in December alone is extremely concerning − we would normally expect fewer than twenty deaths reported in an entire year.”

Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton says no one wants to see dolphins die as a result of fishing. “Everyone is upset by dolphin deaths.”

Ministers Anderton and Chadwick say government officials will be working closely with fishers to ensure all is being done to avoid this type of issue in the future.

The incidental deaths were recorded by government observers stationed on three of the four vessels involved. A fourth vessel voluntarily reported killing two dolphins, in accordance with the requirements of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The fishery has a voluntary Marine Mammal Operating Procedure in place to minimise the incidental capture of marine mammals during trawl fishing.

Ms Chadwick says it is encouraging that two of the vessels involved obeyed the voluntary procedure of moving away from the fishing area to lessen the likelihood of capturing more dolphins.

Another vessel continued fishing briefly and caught no further dolphins, but one vessel continued trawling regardless and caught more dolphins. “It is unacceptable to continue trawling when dolphins are nearby,” Jim Anderton says.

The Department of Conservation and the Ministry of Fisheries are working together to further investigate the factors involved in these deaths. The voluntary Marine Mammal Operating Procedure, driven by the fishing industry, is currently under review by a technical working group which includes DOC and MFish representatives.

MFish and the Deepwater Group (a fishing industry group) will ensure that the revised Marine Mammal Operating Procedure is fully implemented across the commercial fishing fleet.

Common dolphins are not related to the critically endangered Maui’s dolphin.


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