The review covered restrictions on fishing designed to manage the threats posed to the West Coast North Island (WCNI) Maui’s dolphin population and the East Coast South Island (ECSI) Hector’s dolphin population.
Gavin Lockwood, Ministry of Fisheries Deputy Chief Executive Fisheries Management, said the review followed a High Court ruling last year that two restrictions implemented in 2008 to protect dolphins were to be reconsidered.
“These restrictions were the extension of set net closures on the WCNI from four nautical miles to seven nautical miles from the shore and the closure of an area of the ECSI to targeted commercial fishing for butterfish,” Mr Lockwood said.
The restrictions were part of a package of area closures and fishing method restrictions implemented as part of the Hector’s and Maui’s Dolphin Threat Management Plan developed by the Ministry of Fisheries and the Department of Conservation in 2008.
Mr Lockwood reported that, having reconsidered the restrictions, Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Phil Heatley has decided:
- To retain the prohibition on commercial fishing using set nets in the area between four and seven nautical miles from the shore on the WCNI
- To provide an exemption to the set net prohibition on the ECSI to allow commercial fishers targeting butterfish to use set nets in a defined area.
The key reasons for these decisions are:
- The Maui’s dolphin population is about 111. Given this population, very low levels of mortality caused by people can have a significant impact. The Minister considers that although the risk of mortality from fishing in the four to seven nautical mile area is low, it is not acceptable.
- The Minister considers that there is an acceptable level of risk in terms of mortality from butterfish fishing by commercial fishers on the ECSI given the type of fishing gear they use, the size of the area and the numbers of Hector’s dolphins.
Mr Heatley also directed the Ministry to advise him whether an exemption may be warranted for recreational set net fishers targeting butterfish in the same defined area of the ECSI where he granted the commercial exemption. The Ministry will release a consultation document shortly.For the Minister’s decision letter and more information on the restrictions, go to: http://www.fish.govt.nz/en-nz/Environmental/Hectors+Dolphins/default.htm