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Death of Hector's Dolphins

Hector’s dolphin fatalities may highlight need for thorough investigation of marine mammal bycatch

WWF-New Zealand is concerned by the recent discoveries of two dead Hector’s dolphins in the South Island.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has today said that two dead Hector’s dolphins have been found, and that it is investigating both dolphins’ deaths. MPI has said that several factors indicated both dolphins were “subject to human interference”.

In response David Tong, WWF-New Zealand campaigner, said “While it is too early to say what happened to these two dolphins, their deaths may highlight the need for a thorough investigation into marine mammal bycatch nationwide. We are concerned that these two dolphins may have been unreported fishing bycatch.”

“Hector’s dolphins are unique to New Zealand. These beautiful, tiny marine mammals only live in New Zealand’s coastal waters – nowhere else in the world. It’s crucial that we protect these endangered animals from human threats – and to do that, we need to know what impact humans are having,” Mr Tong said.

“Last year’s Operation Achilles report showed that at least one Hector’s dolphin was caught in a fishing net and died, but was dumped back into the ocean by crew. That Hector’s dolphin died on videotape. MPI had the video, but there was no record of the death on official Department of Conservation statistics.”

“Last year we were told that no investigation is needed because enough action is already being taken. If it does turn out that these two dolphins were also killed in fishing nets but dumped back into the ocean, we call on MPI to think again.

“We need to know whether these Hector’s deaths are just the tip of an iceberg of unreported deaths,” Mr Tong said.

“We can only ensure the survival of these endangered dolphin populations if the true nature and extent of the threats they face are understood.”

WWF-New Zealand is pleased to see MPI and Department of Conservation seriously investigating these deaths, and commends the members of the public who came forward to report them.

ENDS

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