HECTORS AND MAUIS DOLPHINS
Imagine if there were only 110 kiwis left in the wild. That’s how many Maui’s dolphins there are believed to be. Now critically endangered, they are found only on the west coast of the North Island. And studies estimate that while there were 26,000 Hectors dolphins living around New Zealand in the 1970s, only about 7,000, or less than a third, remain.
The biggest threat to Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins is the use of set nets and trawler fishing. A 2008 report by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) estimated that 110 to 150 Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins die in commercial set nets every year. To help prevent this the government imposed a variety of regional bans and other restrictions on set netting, trawling and drift netting in coastal waters in 2008.
Recently, conservationists have called for the extension of the ban in Taranaki after what is believed to be a Maui’s dolphin was killed by a set net there in January. There are also fears the current government has undermined the protection by deciding to re-open a popular coastline at the tip of the South Island’s east coast to commercial butterfish netting and for amateur set net use.
The New Zealand Seafood Industry Council has resisted the imposition of the set net ban from the beginning as “absolutely pointless and unnecessary”, arguing that no verified dolphin deaths had been reported since earlier protection measures were put in place. In light of the most recent incident, it dismissed calls to extend the ban as a “knee jerk reaction”.