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2 dolphin deaths in 2 days - drastic action needed

Press Release 21 February 2002

Two dolphin deaths in two days – immediate drastic action must be taken

WWF calls on the government to take decisive, urgent action to protect the critically endangered North Island Hector’s dolphin, after the discovery of two dead dolphins in the past two days. Both dolphins were clearly caught in set nets.

These deaths bring the number killed in fisheries operations in the past eighteen months to seven, from a population of approximately a hundred.

“WWF calls on the Ministry of Fisheries to impose a complete ban on all commercial fishing and recreational set netting under the emergency provisions of the Fisheries Act”, says WWF Chief Executive Jo Breese. “This dolphin will quickly disappear off the face of the earth if New Zealanders don’t take urgent action to protect it.”

Northern Inshore Fisheries, the company which represents commercial fishers in the region, instigated a judicial review of a government ban on set netting within most of the dolphin’s range, imposed last August. A judgement is forthcoming in the next two weeks. During the review period there have been three deaths.

“We can’t afford to delay or argue the fine points anymore”, says Jo Breese. “Set netting must be completely banned within this dolphin’s range; pair trawling must likewise be banned as soon as possible, and a full species recovery programme should be implemented. We would like to see the dolphin’s range on the north west coast declared a marine mammal sanctuary. Only measures such as these will give the North Island Hector’s dolphin a chance of survival.”

ENDS


NOTES

- Only one dolphin death in fisheries every five years is considered sustainable; seven have died in the past eighteen months.

- The deaths follow quickly on the heels of the finding of a dead North Island Hector’s dolphin in Manukau Harbour three weeks ago, at a time when commercial pair trawlers were fishing south of the Manukau Harbour.

- Northern Inshore Fisheries’ appeal against the set netting ban and observer coverage on trawlers was heard in the Wellington High Court on February 18-19. A decision is expected in two weeks.

- There are currently no plans to include pair trawling in the ban, because during consultation meetings in 2001 Northern Inshore Fisheries made assurances that commercial fishers did not pair trawl within the dolphin’s range.

- One of the two dead dolphins was reported by a member of the public to the WWF Sightings and Strandings Network, set up by WWF to monitor the North Island Hector’s dolphin.

- North Island Hector’s dolphins are the world’s smallest, rarest marine dolphin. They are genetically distinct from the South Island populations and do not interbreed with them. They range from Pariokariwa Point near New Plymouth to Maunganui Bluff north of Dargaville, mostly within 4nm of land.


For further information contact:
Megan Huber, Communications Manager, WWF New Zealand
Tel: (04) 499-2930 Fax: (04) 499-2954 Megan.huber@wwf.org.nz

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