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F&B Welcomes DOC Hector's Dolphin Initiative

May 9, 2002

Forest And Bird Welcomes Hector's Dolphin Initiative By Department Of Conservation

Forest and Bird welcomes the proposal to protect North Island Hector's dolphin put forward by the Department of Conservation's (DoC) Auckland Conservancy.

Forest and Bird's marine spokesperson, Mr Barry Weeber, said the DoC proposal (note 5) was much more likely to protect the dolphin than the two options put forward by the Ministry of Fisheries (notes 3-4). "Fishing-related deaths of critically endangered North Island Hector's dolphins needs to be reduced to zero. The proposal put forward by the Department of Conservation is much more likely to achieve this than either of the options presented by the Ministry of Fisheries," said Mr Weeber.

Mr Weeber said the MFish 'option one' would be completely inadequate as it did not protect the entire range of North Island Hector's dolphin and the proposed management measures are unproven (note 6).

Option 2 is inadequate because, while the entire coastal range of Hector's dolphin would be closed to commercial set netting, it does not address the issue of trawlers and Danish seine vessels or netting in harbour entrances other than the Manukau harbour.

"There is conclusive evidence that trawlers have caught South Island Hector's dolphins in other areas. With the North Island Hector's dolphin being so critically endangered, it is imperative to take a precautionary approach. If trawling and Danish seining is to continue in this area, we must have 100% observer coverage," says Mr Weeber (notes 7-10.)

Forest and Bird will support the proposal presented by the Department of Conservation in its submission to the Ministry of Fisheries on 21 May, PO Box 3437, Auckland.


Background Notes For Journalists:

1. Preliminary analysis of data collected during the course of aerial surveys suggests that the population of North Island Hector's dolphin now numbers around 75 individuals. The dolphin is recognized by IUCN's (the World Conservation Union) scientific specialists group as being critically endangered.

2. The total fishing effort under the original option implemented by the Ministry of Fisheries (which was successfully challenged in the High Court) would have been 13% less than the proposal put forward by Northern Inshore Fisheries (NIF) Company. NIWA calculated that the likelihood of Hector's dolphin extinction under the original Ministry of Fisheries option would be 1.64%, compared to 12.44% under the NIF option. (Reference: Stochastic projections of North Island Hectors dolphin prepared by NIWA for the Crown Law Office in December 2001.)

3. Option one is based on a proposal put forward by Northern Inshore Fisheries companies. It includes a set net closure out to 4 nautical miles from the Southern Head of the mouths of Manukau Harbour to Taranaki Point (near Kawhia), a set net closure 2 nautical miles out from the mouths of the Manukau, Aotea and Kawhia Harbours, a seasonal set around the mouth of the Kaipara Harbour and coast from Kawhia to Mokau, as well as voluntary management measures.

4. Option two proposes a ban on set nets from Maunganui Bluff to Pariokariwa Point (North of New Plymouth). This is the area currently closed to recreational set nets.

5. In addition the Ministry is proposing to close the Manukau Harbour entrance to both commercial and amateur set nets.

6. The DoC option proposes, in addition to option 2: * Closure of Kawhia, Kaipara, Aotea and Raglan Harbours and Port Waikato River mouth for 2 nautical miles from the entrance; * A small extension of the Manukau Harbour controls; * Closure of an area from Maunganui Bluff to Pariokariwa Point and up to 2 nautical miles offshore to trawling and Danish trawling. * Observer programme on trawlers and Danish seine vessels within 4 nautical miles of the coast.

7. There is no evidence that setting nets low in the water column will reduce risk of dolphins being caught, as diet research indicates that Hector's Dolphin feed throughout the water column -not just near the surface. Likewise, it has not been proven that pingers deter dolphins from nets and, because of this, they have been rejected in some areas overseas involving critically endangered marine mammals.

8. When the Banks Peninsula marine Mammal Sanctuary was proposed, commercial trawling operators in the area denied that they were catching Hector's dolphin, despite researchers having evidence of at least five dolphins having been caught. Once an observer programme for the industry was implemented, evidence was collected of dolphins being caught by trawlers.

9. An historical press statement regarding fisheries by-catch of South Island Hector's dolphins from the former Minister of Conservation, Nick Smith, states: "What makes me particularly angry about this issue is that fishermen have for years failed to report fatalities and denied there was a problem. It has taken years to negotiate an observer programme. The initial results from this first year observer coverage has confirmed our worst fears. Despite observer coverage on only 89 of 351 fishing days, six fatalities were observed. I remain cynical of the fact that fishermen claim there were no deaths during the 252 days of fishing when observers were not present. I am advised by statisticians that the probability of the fatalities occurring only on the days when observers were present is less than 1 in 10 billion. Were this true I'd be advising every Canterbury fishermen to be buying a Lotto ticket, such is their luck. It is a legal requirement under the Marine Mammals Protection Act to report deaths of dolphins." (REF: http://www.ts.co.nz/~nicksmp/pressrel/7-29-98.html)

10. At a preliminary consultation meeting on Thursday 18 April, a representative from the trawling industry said that trawlers off Auckland's west coast did not catch Hector's dolphins because the conditions were so different from those off the South Island. The trawler representative also stated that the trawling industry would oppose observer coverage on trawlers in the area, even if there was no cost to fishers. Ministry of Fisheries staff, Northern Inshore Fisheries representatives, Department of Conservation staff, Forest and Bird Society members and staff, the Deputy Mayor of Rodney District and World Wide Fund for nature staff also attended the meeting.

11. The High Court decision related only to commercial fishing. It did not affect recreational set netting, which is still banned out to 4 nautical miles between Pariokariwa Point and Manganui Bluff.


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