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Fishermen are right – no Maui’s to be found off Taranaki

Fishermen are right – no Maui’s to be found off Taranaki

Taranaki fishermen claims have been vindicated after government observers on their vessels have failed to sight any Maui’s or Hector’s dolphins in Taranaki waters during the past month.

To protect endangered Maui’s dolphins the Minister for Primary Industries closed Taranaki inshore waters to set nets in late June and made it compulsory for the vessels to carry observers when fishing between two and seven nautical miles.

Local fishermen pointed out at the time that no Maui’s had ever been confirmed off Taranaki and that the identical looking Hector’s was there only rarely.

Five fishing vessels have operated out of New Plymouth with observers on board during the past month to set nets outside the two mile limit. They have gone as far north as Mokau and south to Hawera. The fishermen report a total of 658 hours of observer coverage and 2381 nautical miles (4410 kilometres) travelled , over 84 days at sea - without seeing a single Hector’s or Maui’s.

Local fisherman Ian McDougall says he isn’t surprised at the result.

“I caught the dolphin that started all this panic in January. It was the first I’d seen in 15 years fishing here. I reported it. But the problem was MPI issued a press statement saying I’d caught a Maui’s. People believed them, even though MPI later backed off its claim and it now says it was just as likely to be a Hector’s which is much more common.”

Ian McDougall says the fishermen have tried to cover as much area as possible to prove that these dolphins don’t inhabit any Taranaki waters.

“The boats haven’t just stayed in the approved set net area. We’ve been into the two mile limit without fishing just to prove the dolphins aren’t there either,” he says.

“Just compare that with the survey the Department of Conservation did off Waikato and Auckland in the past couple of years. That’s where all the Maui’s live. DOC was sighting a Maui’s every forty minutes or so. If they are somewhere out there, you will see them.”

Ian McDougall says that since there is a total absence of Hector’s and Maui’s sightings of Taranaki then the government ought to immediately lift the fishing ban.

“If that means observers then let’s have the observers for fishing here as well.”

Ian McDougall says the local fishers ought to receive compensation for lost income.

“All of us have had our catch down on previous seasons. One business has already gone to the wall. The government speculated on what type of dolphin I had caught. They got it wrong and sent everyone into a panic. Now it’s up to the Minister for Primary Industries to put it right,” Ian McDougall concluded.

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