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Dolphin death threshold too high

28 August 2002

Dolphin death threshold too high

Cephalorhynchus hectori Hector's dolphin Banks Peninsula, New Zealand
© WWF / Stephen DAWSON

Too many Canterbury Hector’s dolphins will be allowed to die in the coming set net fishing year, according to WWF.

The fishing year opens on 1 October.

“The Minister has specified that three dolphins may die in set nets this year before that fishery must be closed”, says WWF Conservation Director Chris Howe. “WWF is mystified as to how the Ministry of Fisheries came up with this figure.”

“Using the same mathematical tools and the best available information, WWF has come up with a maximum allowable figure of less than one death per year across all fisheries, not just set netting.”

“On the surface, the Ministry appears to have deliberately miscalculated. WWF urgently seeks an explanation from the Minister of Fisheries.”

“The Minister has also not specified any level of observer coverage on fishing boats, despite advice from his own officials that every boat should have an observer onboard.”

“Once again we face the prospect of a fishing season with inadequate protection for endangered animals. Where are the management measures for North Island Hector’s dolphins we were promised for July? Time is running out to implement strong safety measures for Hector’s dolphins, both north and south, before the fishing season begins. This matter must be addressed urgently.”


- There are about 1,200 Hector’s dolphins in the Canterbury area (Motunau to Timaru). The species is IUCN classified as endangered.
- Hector’s dolphins also live in isolated pockets off the coast of Southland, the south island’s west coast, and the north west coast of the north island.
- North Island Hector’s dolphins are the world’s rarest marine dolphin. They are critically endangered and there are almost certainly fewer than 100 left.
- Hector’s dolphins live in shallow coastal waters, the same habitat as fish such as dogfish, which are targeted by set netters.
- The set netting season generally lasts from 1 October until the end of March.


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