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New evidence supports precautionary approach for dolphins

Forest & Bird says that new evidence showing that Hector’s and Māui dolphins are often present off the Taranaki coast is further support for a precautionary approach towards fishing and other threats.

“This new information confirms the industry proposal for net based fishing near Māui dolphins won’t work because it relies on trying to visually spot dolphins, which is like finding a needle in a haystack,” says Forest & Bird spokesperson Geoff Keey. “But this research clearly shows the dolphins are there, but out of sight.”

Research released today by the Department of Conservation and the University of Auckland used acoustic devices to measure the presence of dolphins. It was found that Hector’s and Māui dolphins are regularly present in the coastal waters of Tongaporutu and Taranaki, and visit as far south as Tapuae. Aerial surveys have previously searched for dolphins in this area, but verified sightings are rare.

“The fishing industry needs to acknowledge this evidence and accept they need to change to dolphin friendly fishing methods because just looking for them on the surface of the sea doesn’t work,” says Mr Keey.

“Māui dolphins are very nearly extinct. If we’re serious about preventing the demise of such a special animal we need better data and we need to protect every single dolphin. There is no room for half measures or untested techniques.”

Submissions closed on a review of the Hector’s and Māui Threat Management Plan in August 2019 and a decision is expected from ministers in coming weeks.

“This research adds weight to our proposals on the Government’s management plan – that Option 4 must be extended to ban commercial and recreational set netting and trawling in waters out to a depth of 100 metres on the North Island’s west coast. In these areas, fishers must change to dolphin friendly methods.”


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