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NZ's Grim Marine Bycatch Toll Under Spotlight

Leading law, policy and science experts will gather in Wellington next month to tackle the issue of how to reduce the levels of recreational and commercial fishing bycatch that are seriously threatening New Zealand’s marine animal species.

“Protecting Marine Animals: A Law, Policy and Science Symposium” will be held at the University of Otago Wellington Stadium Centre on Thursday 19 November. Participants in the public symposium will explore future options for enhancing the protection of marine animals in New Zealand fisheries waters.

Speakers at the University of Otago-organised symposium include former Minister of Fisheries Hon. Jim Anderton, Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei and Raewyn Peart from the Environmental Defence Society.

Senior scientists from the University of Otago and the Department of Conservation will present recent research on the effects of fishing on marine animals, and existing bycatch law and policy will be examined.

Otago Zoology Associate Professor Liz Slooten says dolphin, seal, sealion, albatross and petrel are just some of the marine species that are caught up in the New Zealand fishing industry’s bycatch.

“For Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins – which are internationally recognised as endangered and critically endangered respectively – set nets are the number one threat,” Associate Professor Slooten says.

The University of Otago’s Research Cluster for Natural Resources Law is holding the symposium.

It is the latest initiative for the research cluster that also hosted a public symposium on “The Future of Conservation Lands and Waters” in July, and recently co-hosted the Indigenous Legal Water Forum.

The event will be held at the University of Otago Stadium Centre Wellington, lecture theatre one: http://www.otago.ac.nz/stadiumcentre/facilities/charges.html

The programme can be viewed at: http://www.otago.ac.nz/law/nrl/marine/index.html

Attendance is free, but numbers are limited to 120. For catering purposes, those who wish to attend are asked to register their interest by emailing melanie.ruru@otago.ac.nz with details including name and organisation, if applicable (these details will be used for name badges).

Confirmed speakers include:

Hon. Jim Anderton (leader of the Progressive Party) implemented the most comprehensive protection measures for Hector's dolphin in 2008. He was Minister of Fisheries at the time and the fishing industry challenged this decision in court.

Dr Louise Chilvers is a senior research scientist working at Department of Conservation. Her research on New Zealand sea lion shows that the population is not doing well.

Associate Professor Liz Slooten from the Zoology Department at Otago University has been carrying out research on Hector's dolphin since 1984. Her research has been instrumental in the development of protection measures for this endemic dolphin species.

Raewyn Peart, Senior Policy Analyst at the Environmental Defence Society. EDS are turning their legal and planning expertise towards coastal and marine conservation issues, investigating why marine management lags so far behind conservation on land.

Hon. Metiria Turei (co-leader of the Green Party) put forward a Private Member's Bill this year to protect marine animals and improve the legislation protecting them.

Nicola Wheen from the Law School at Otago University is an expert on environmental law. She has written extensively on the legal obstacles to better protection of NZ's marine animals.


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