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Restrictions proposed to reduce dolphin deaths

19 October 2006

Fishing restrictions proposed to reduce dolphin deaths

New interim fishing restrictions are proposed to reduce the threatened Hector’s and Maui’s dolphin deaths this summer, says Minister of Fisheries Jim Anderton and Minister of Conservation Chris Carter.

Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins are the world’s smallest and rarest marine dolphin. The South Island has around 7,000 Hector’s dolphins, with around 5,400 of these on the West Coast.

The North Island Maui’s dolphin population is estimated at only 111 animals.

“These dolphins live close inshore and are particularly at risk of getting caught in set nets and drowning,” Jim Anderton says. “There are already a range of fishing restrictions around New Zealand to reduce Hector’s dolphin deaths in set nets.

“The government is developing a Threat Management Plan for Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins. This Plan will look at all threats to the dolphins, including fishing, and how these can be managed for the long-term.”

Minister of Conservation, Chris Carter supports the action taken by Mr Anderton to try to reduce the impact of fishing activities on Hector’s dolphins.

“Hector’s dolphins are New Zealand’s only native dolphin, and due to their numbers, are very much our ‘kakapo of the seas’,” he said.

Mr Carter said that New Zealanders were lucky to have a native coastal dolphin that shares the inshore coastal waters, where people are able to see them from the beach.

“Hector’s dolphins come in close to the shore in the summer months to raise their calves, so it is very important that action is taken now.” Mr Carter said.

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The plan is being developed by the Ministry of Fisheries and Department of Conservation, in association with stakeholders and dolphin experts.

“By involving everyone, we will get a better outcome, but such processes take time,” Jim Anderton says.

“So until the plan is developed, I want to look at interim steps to manage some of the immediate threats to the dolphins from set nets. In particular, I am proposing measures for Te Waewae Bay in Southland and for northern Canterbury through to Kaikoura. These, and other proposed measures are now open for public consultation.

“I would emphasise that any such interim measures will eventually be replaced by longer-term solutions identified in the Threat Management Plan," Jim Anderton said.

Background information:

- Hector’s dolphins are New Zealand’s only native dolphin, and one of the smallest dolphins in the world, reaching only 1.5m in length (or 1.6m for the slightly larger Maui’s dolphins).

- They are easily recognisable for their ‘mickey mouse’ shaped rounded dorsal fin, and grey and white markings.

- The two subspecies of Hector’s dolphins, Maui’s (in the North Island), and the South Island Hector’s dolphin, are physically and genetically distinct from each other. This genetic separation suggests that the dolphins do not travel far up and down the coast.

- Hector’s dolphins are classified as “nationally vulnerable” while Maui’s dolphins are listed internationally as “nationally critical”. They are the rarest sub species of marine dolphin in the world.

- Both Hector’s and Mauis can live for up to twenty years.

- They are extremely slow to reproduce, with females taking seven years to reach maturity, and producing one calf every three years. This means most females can only have four or five calves in their lifetime.

- The Banks Peninsula marine mammal sanctuary in Canterbury was established in 1988 primarily to reduce set-net deaths of Hector’s dolphins in the area.

- Set-net controls were introduced to Canterbury in 2002, and the West Coast of the North Island in 2003.

- The Department of Conservation and Ministry of Fisheries are working together to produce a Threat Management Plan to try to reduce human induced impacts on Hector’s dolphins.

ENDS

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