Dr Jeremy Helson, CEO of FINZ, says industry is right behind saving these animals and is focussed on remedies that will work in the real world. He noted that the restrictions imposed on fishing in 2003, and extended in 2008, 2012 and 2013, protect Maui’s dolphin from accidental capture by fishing throughout their known range.
“The effectiveness of these restrictions on fishing is evident - there have been no confirmed mortalities of Maui’s attributed to fishing since 2003. We now need to address other issues placing these animals at risk.”
Dr Helson says the possibility of Maui’s outside the current fishing restrictions is speculative. “Management in New Zealand must be based on the best available science, not on conjecture or on speculation.”
Since July 2012, the Ministry for Primary Industries has deployed over 800 days of observer coverage south of New Plymouth in order to determine the distribution of Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins. Despite being an area closed to fishing, not a single dolphin has been seen by trained government observers.
“We need to focus our protection efforts on the key remaining risks to these animals. Although fishing has been prohibited where Maui’s dolphins live other significant risks remain” Dr Helson says.
In 2012 it was confirmed two of three beach cast Maui’s dolphins were killed by toxoplasmosis, and this disease appears to be widespread through the species.
Dr Helson says scientists on the Government’s Maui’s dolphin Research Advisory Group, soon to be convened, should focus their efforts on measures that remove the current risks to Maui’s dolphins, which include disease.
“Stringent government regulation has prohibited fishing from the known range of Maui’s dolphin. It’s time for a fresh, innovative assessment of the risks they now face and some effective remedies to reduce these,” Dr Helson says.