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Weak measures will fail Hector’s dolphins

21 December 2006 - Wellington

Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

Weak measures will fail Hector’s dolphins

New measures announced today by Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton fail to adequately control set netting around New Zealand, virtually guaranteeing that Hector’s dolphins will continue to die in recreational set nets this summer, Forest & Bird says.

“The weak measures announced today fall short of the interim measures recently considered, let alone the set net ban that is required to adequately protect the species,” Forest &Bird South Island Field Coordinator Eugenie Sage says.

“The measures announced today were the absolute minimum that the Minister could impose and still say that he was doing something,” Ms Sage says.

“The only extra is that in two South Island areas recreational set netters must now stay with their nets at all times. Many set netters ignore these rules and there are not enough Ministry of Fisheries officers to enforce compliance.”

“In recent weeks the Fisheries Minister has made similarly weak decisions that have failed to adequately protect New Zealand sea lions and albatrosses from being caught and drowned in the Auckland Island squid fishery and the Kermadec swordfish fishery.”

“The Ministry of Fisheries has already extensively publicised its Code of Practice among fishers. The ongoing high level of set net mortalities shows that education has not worked. Stronger controls are urgently needed.”

“As a minimum interim measure, the Minister should have extended the current summertime ban on set nets on the Canterbury coast to the Kaikoura coast, to the West Coast, to Te Wae Wae Bay in Southland, and to Porpoise Bay in the Catlins.”

“In 2005 nine Hector’s dolphin set net mortalities were reported on the West Coast in 2005, including four in a single net at Neils Beach in South Westland. Three dolphins died in set nets at Kaikoura in 2003 and three in Canterbury in 2005.”

“The new measures provide no effective protection for these important stronghold and sub populations of Hector’s dolphin,” she says.

“The long-term survival of Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins requires a year round set net ban across their entire range.”

“The set net ban off the north-west coast of the North Island clearly demonstrates that if we remove this threat, the number of dolphin deaths is considerably reduced.”

Forest & Bird is seeking a New Zealand wide set net ban and the establishment of Marine Mammal Sanctuaries in each of the critical Hector’s and Maui’s dolphin areas. Sanctuaries would provide protection for the species from recreational and commercial set netting and trawling.

Background Notes

- Hector’s dolphin is in the same “Endangered” threat category as the Great Panda in China on the IUCN Red List of Species Threatened with Extinction;

- Set nets kill nearly everything that swims into them including non-target marine life and seabirds, for example shearwaters, shags, penguins, seals, sea turtles and dolphins;

- Set nets are a key threat to the threatened Hector’s dolphin and critically endangered Maui’s dolphin;

- Compliance with set net regulations is poor and most captures of marine mammals and birds are not reported;

- Set nets are banned or heavily restricted in many countries worldwide, including Australia, the UK and USA;

- Between 1995 and 2005, 41 Hector’s dolphins were reported entangled and drowned in West Coast set nets. Dolphins have been killed every year, except 2003.

ENDS

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