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Taranaki fishermen go electronic to protect phantom dolphins

Taranaki fishermen go electronic to protect phantom dolphins

Taranaki fishermen are installing underwater marine mammal alarms, known as pingers, on their nets.

The Australian made pingers are successfully used in many parts of the world to warn dolphins, porpoises and whales away from being caught in fishing nets. The pingers emit high frequency signals every four seconds.

Ian McDougall, the New Plymouth fisherman who reported the capture of a Hector’s type dolphin off Cape Egmont in January says he is investing in the pingers to show the chance of an entanglement in his gear is greatly reduced.

He says there are no endangered Maui’s dolphins anywhere in the area he fishes, but he feels it is important to make the point that fishermen are making serious efforts to protect New Zealand sea mammals.

“The dolphin back in January was the first I’d seen in 15 years fishing in Taranaki waters. I’m convinced it was a stray Hector’s dolphin. That’s very common round the South Island. But MAF went into a panic and they went and speculated in the media that it was the very rare Maui’s dolphin I’d caught”.

MAF, now MPI, has since retracted its level of certainty that the dolphin was in fact a Maui’s.

Ian McDougall says the damage was already done.

“They persuaded the public that it was a Maui’s and that there are only 55 adults left, and I’d killed one. Next minute there’s a ban on set netting in our fishing grounds. This is going to lead to the extinction of the fishing industry in Taranaki, unless it’s withdrawn,” he says.

Ian McDougall rejects any suggestion that by installing pingers he is admitting that there are Maui’s in Taranaki waters.

“The pingers are effective on many dolphin species. They will reduce the chance of Hectors species dolphins getting entangled. As we know, there have been Hectors in the area where I am fishing, but once again there has been no confirmed sightings of Maui’s south of Raglan. I aim to prove and publicise the fact that I’m going out of my way to protect something that is not there,” Ian McDougall says.

The five Taranaki fishermen, including Ian McDougall, who are currently setting nets outside the net ban area, report their government observers have still to see a Hector’s or Maui’s dolphin in more than a month of sailing.

The government put observers on the vessels in late July to look for Maui’s. As of today (4th September) they have travelled more than 5000 kilometres, during 800 hours of sailing, up to the southernmost extent of the Maui’s range at Raglan – and have yet to sight a single Maui’s or Hector’s.


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