Otago Daily Times

Snapper catch increase risk to Maui dolphins: scientist

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WELLINGTON: Fisheries New Zealand is being challenged over claims the commercial snapper catch can be increased without posing a risk to endangered Maui dolphins.

The snapper quota off the North Island’s west coast has risen 23% to 1600 tonnes a year, and the amount that can be taken for customary and recreation­al use has also jumped.

‘‘It is just really surprising that new informatio­n of Maui dolphin now being down to 54, that that’s followed hot on the heels by this decision to increase snapper quota — it just doesn’t make sense,’’ University of Otago marine biologist Liz Slooten said.

Observer coverage was scarce on boats in the area, so there was no way of telling how many dolphins were ending up as bycatch, she said.

‘‘We simply don’t have the data to say that and also there is no mention that I can see of the recent new informatio­n that Maui dolphins have declined again. There’s a lot of informatio­n that’s missed out of this document.’’

Fisheries NZ — a division of the Ministry for Primary Industries — said it was satisfied with the protection­s in place for Maui dolphins.

Fisheries NZ stated in a report that was leaked that despite the decline in the number of Maui dolphins, no extra protection­s were needed.

This was because ‘‘the current fisheries measures effectivel­y restrict the estimated level of fishingrel­ated mortality to zero’’, it said. —

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