Posted on 24 February 2012 | 21 Comments
Wellington, New Zealand
- WWF-New Zealand today reiterated calls on the Government to ban set net fishing throughout Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins’ habitat, to prevent more dolphins dying needlessly in nets. The call came as two Hector's dolphins were reported killed by the illegal use of set nets within a sanctuary for the endangered species.
WWF-New Zealand’s Marine Programme Manager Rebecca Bird said these latest deaths were a further blow for a species already threatened with extinction: “We can’t keep on losing dolphins like this. This latest incident follows the death of a critically endangered Maui’s dolphin in a set net, and neither species can sustain this kind of death toll. We are saddened at the news of these two dolphins found dead, it is a grim reminder that dolphins are still dying needlessly in fishing nets.”
Fishing with nets is the main reason the numbers of Hector’s dolphins have declined so rapidly; the nets entangle the dolphins and cause them to drown. Since the 1970s, their population has plummeted from around 30,000 to just over 7,000 today.
“The Government is launching an inquiry into the illegal use of set nets inside the Banks Peninsula sanctuary, but the fact of the matter is the dolphins remain unprotected in large parts of their range. The Government is clearly struggling to enforce piece-meal regulations – if it is serious about protecting this species, it needs to send a clear signal to fishers by banning nets in our coastal waters.”
She said the government’s own research shows the dolphins have the best chance of recovery if all human threats to the dolphins’ survival are removed: “Current protection falls short of what’s needed for the dolphins to recover their numbers, so they are no longer threatened with extinction. This is a wake-up call for the Government – do they want the species to recover or are they willing to preside over their decline?”
“For a species that has lost nearly three-quarters of its population in just three decades, we need to be pulling out all the stops to help them recover. And that means making sure no more dolphins die needlessly in nets,” she said.
WWF is campaigning for Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins to be protected adequately from human threats throughout their natural range to allow their numbers to recover to their pre-1970s abundance.
She said “Globally set nets are recognised as a very wasteful method of fishing, they catch and kill everything in their path. We are encouraging fishers to change to more sustainable methods that don’t catch dolphins,” said Ms Bird.
WWF advocates for the Government to develop and implement an effective action plan for the recovery of the species that also identifies, manages and mitigates all other threats to Hector's and Maui's to ensure their recovery, such as boat strike, pollution, coastal development sand- mining and exploration for oil and gas.