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New fishing bans to protect dolphins

Hon Jim Anderton

Minister of Agriculture, Minister for Biosecurity
Minister of Fisheries, Minister of Forestry
Associate Minister of Health
Associate Minister for Tertiary Education

30 September 2008 Media Statement

New fishing bans to protect Hector's and Maui's dolphins

New fishing rules to protect New Zealand's threatened Hector's and Maui's dolphins will come into force for recreational and commercial fishers tomorrow (Wednesday 1 October 2008), Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said today.

The new rules are a variety of regional bans and other restrictions on set netting, trawling and drift netting in coastal waters.

Set netting will now be banned around much of the South Island's coast, with new trawl restrictions close to shore on the east and south coasts. On the upper North Island's west coast existing set net bans will be extended, and there will be new trawling and drift netting bans.

Fishers should check the rules for the place where they fish - before they go fishing, by calling their nearest Ministry of Fisheries office or visiting

Jim Anderton said Hector's and Maui's dolphins were among the world's rarest, they are found only in New Zealand waters and their survival was up to us.

It's estimated that there are fewer than 8,000 of the Hector's dolphin species left, mostly around the South Island. The North Island Maui's dolphin sub-species is estimated to number only around 111 dolphins, and is classified as "nationally critical" by the Department of Conservation.

"I understand the concerns of those whose livelihoods and recreation will be affected, but these rules were not the most severe of the options proposed and they strike the best achievable balance between fishing activity and the protection of an iconic species."

The Ministry of Fisheries budget has been increased by $6 million over the next three years to place observers on commercial fishing vessels, including those in the areas where the dolphins live. These costs will be recovered from the industry through levies.

The variety of new regional bans and other restrictions on set netting, drift netting and trawling apply on the:
North Island west coast - from Maunganui Bluff north of Kaipara Harbour to Pariokariwa Point north of New Plymouth
South Island east coast - from Cape Jackson in the Marlborough Sounds to Slope Point in the Catlins
South Island south coast - from Slope Point in the Catlins to Sand Hill Point east of Fiordland
South Island west coast - from Farewell Spit Lighthouse in the north to Awarua Point north of Fiordland.

On 26 September the Wellington High Court ruled that some of the measures for commercial fishing cannot go ahead on 1 October as scheduled. This ruling applies to some areas on the North Island's west coast, the east coast of Marlborough and around Te Waiwai Bay on the South Island's south coast.

Jim Anderton said that while some bans could not be implemented in some areas, most bans would come into force as scheduled, including all measures for recreational fishing.

"Fishers must check the rules before they go fishing."

The Ministry of Fisheries will treat any breach of the new regulations on a case-by-case basis. Penalties range from a verbal warning to a fine of up to $20,000 for recreational fishers or up to $100,000 for commercial fishers, and forfeiture of vessels and fishing gear used in the offence.

The new fishing rules will sit alongside four new marine mammal sanctuaries announced by Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick.

For more detail on the prohibitions and new rules as well as those areas that will not go ahead at this time due to court action, please visit the Ministry of Fisheries website


Fact Sheet - Protecting Hector's and Maui's dolphins

About Hector's and Maui's Dolphins
Hector's and Maui's dolphins are among the world's rarest and smallest dolphins. They are found only in New Zealand's waters.

The Hector's dolphin species is estimated to number fewer than 8,000. It is divided into two sub-species - the Maui's and South Island Hector's dolphins.

The Maui's dolphin sub-species lives around the North Island's west coast. It is estimated there are only about 110 dolphins left. The Department of Conservation (DoC) classifies them as "nationally critical".

The South Island Hector's dolphin sub-species lives in three geographically distinct groups around the South Island. On the south coast estimates of dolphin numbers range from about 90 to 400. It is estimated about 1,800 dolphins live on the east coast and about 5,400 on the west coast. DoC classifies them as "nationally endangered".

Hector's and Maui's dolphins live for only around 20 years and breed slowly. Females don't have their first calf until they are about seven or eight years old, and have a new calf only every two to four years. This means the species may be threatened by even occasional deaths caused by human activity.

Fishing is the greatest known human threat to Hector's and Maui's dolphins - responsible for about 75 per cent of reported deaths with a known cause.

The Ministry of Fisheries (MFish) believes reported fishing deaths are an underestimate because there is low observer coverage of commercial fisheries, no formal monitoring of recreational fishing and poor incentives to report entanglements.

Set nets are the main fishing threat to Hector's and Maui's dolphins. They can get entangled in the fine nylon nets and drown. Other key fishing threats are the trawl nets towed by inshore vessels, and the drift nets used around the lower reaches of the Waikato River.

Other human threats include marine tourism, vessel traffic, mining, construction, coastal development, pollution, sedimentation, oil spills, plastic bags, marine farming and climate change.

About the new fishing rules
The new fishing rules are the result of two years of analysis and public consultation.

In August 2007 MFish and DoC released a draft Hector's and Maui's Dolphin Threat Management Plan for stakeholder and public consultation. It identified all human threats to the dolphins and sought feedback on potential options to manage them.

MFish and DoC received over 2,000 submissions from interested parties here and internationally - including commercial and recreational fishers, environmental groups, iwi and members of the public. The Fisheries Minister also received nine petitions and more than 6,000 pre-printed postcards urging additional protection for the dolphins.

The Minister announced his decisions on the Threat Management Plan on 29 May 2008. Cabinet approved the regulations on 25 August 2008. The new fishing rules will sit alongside four new marine mammal sanctuaries announced by Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick.

The new fishing rules that come into force on 1 October 2008 for recreational and commercial fishers are a variety of regional bans and other restrictions on set netting, drift netting and trawling.

Regulations for commercial fishers are subject to a legal challenge by the Federation of Commercial Fishermen, South East Finfish Management Ltd, Challenger Finfisheries Management Company Ltd and the Northern Fisheries Management Stakeholder Company.

The parties are seeking a judicial review to overturn all the new commercial fishing rules. They are also asking the Court to set aside some of the new rules in some places until the judicial review is heard.

The court action does not apply to similar regulations due to come into force for recreational fishers on 1 October 2008.


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