Set Net Ban to Protect Dolphins

The New Zealand public wants a set nets ban and the establishment of a marine mammal sanctuary to protect the critically endangered maui’s dolphin.

Public consultation undertaken by Forest and Bird, centred in Auckland, Waikato and Northland, has found almost total support for a set net ban (98 percent) to protect maui’s dolphins.

There was also strong support for the establishment of a marine mammal sanctuary off the northwest coast of the North Island, with 96 percent of respondents supporting a sanctuary to protect the dolphins.

Forest and Bird conservation advocate Kirstie Knowles said today the strong public support for a set net ban and to establish a marine mammal sanctuary for maui’s dolphin meant the Government should include those measures in its threat management plan to protect maui’s and hector’s dolphins.

The threat management plan was expected to be announced by the Government early this week.

Once found around most of the New Zealand coastline and numbering over 29,000 in the 1970s, hector’s dolphins were now mainly found around some parts of the South Island and number fewer than 8000, Ms Knowles said.

They were listed as “endangered’ by the IUCN (World Conservation Union), and were at serious risk of extinction.

Maui’s dolphin, the North Island sub-species of hector’s dolphin, was listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of species at risk of extinction. Just 111 remain, making them the world’s rarest marine dolphin.

“Set nets are the main threat to hector’s dolphins, responsible for more than 60 percent of their deaths in cases where the cause of death is known,” Ms Knowles said.

Set nets also killed other vulnerable marine life, including seals, penguins, sharks, rays, other dolphin species and seabirds.

While a set net ban was in place off part of the northwest coast of the North Island, it did not protect maui’s dolphins across all of the areas where they were found, she said.

Ms Knowles said set nets were the number one killer of both dolphins and they should be banned nationwide.