This press release is on behalf of Fisheries New Zealand and Department of Conservation...
This week the Government reached out to the public for feedback on its long term plan to protect Hector’s and M?ui dolphins. M?ui dolphins in particular are in a perilous position – there are only about 63 of them left. There are about 15000 Hector’s and they are classified as nationally vulnerable.
Fisheries New Zealand and the Department of Conservation have pulled together the best available scientific evidence about the risks to these dolphins, which draws on a range of new data and helps us to decide where to focus our efforts to protect them. Now, we want to hear what people have to say on a range of options in three areas:
We’ve worked on these proposals as well as co-ordinating the science and other information which underpins them. This work gives us our clearest picture yet of where the risks are, and what to do about them.
There has been debate among some scientists about the scale of risk presented by the disease toxoplasmosis. We welcome this as an important part of the scientific process, and further research has been included as one of the priorities in the plan to help address uncertainty.
We stand by the rigour of our scientific risk assessment, and think it gives us a good basis to put options before the public.
Having said that, complete scientific consensus is rare, and if we continue to debate the finer points until everyone agrees, there’s a good chance there will be no M?ui dolphins left to save.
It’s important, given the threatened status of the dolphins, to address as many of the threats to their survival as possible. Toxoplasmosis is a confirmed cause of death in both Hector’s and M?ui dolphins, so we are also proposing the development of a toxoplasmosis action plan to address this threat to the dolphins.
The options for directly addressing risks from fishing range from moderate additions to existing restrictions through to significant additional closures.
There are currently 15,000 square kilometres of New Zealand waters closed to set netting, and 8,000 square kilometres with trawl restrictions.
At the higher end of the range, the options would add restrictions of 21,700 square kilometres to commercial and recreational set netting (109% increase) and 20,800 square kilometres to trawling (or a 285% increase).
The consultation also includes proposals to extend the boundaries of the West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary south to Wellington and for the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary to extend north to Kaik?ura, south to Timaru, and offshore to 20 nautical miles.
In considering these options, we must not lose sight of the fact that any closures will affect people and their livelihoods. These are tough decisions that need to be made. Through the consultation we want people to help us better understand the opportunities and risks alongside each of the proposals.
We encourage people to go to the Fisheries New Zealand or Department of Conservation website, find out more about what we’re proposing and make your voice heard.
Director Fisheries Management
Fisheries New Zealand
Manager Marine Species and Threats
Department of Conservation
04 July 2019