The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Department of Conservation (DOC), in partnership with the fishing industry, have recently trialled an electronic monitoring programme in the Timaru set net fishery.
The trial used electronic monitoring technology to automatically record information such as vessel location and interactions between set net fishing vessels and protected species, including Hector’s dolphins. Electronic monitoring involves using on board sensors, cameras and GPS receivers.
Two incidental captures of Hector’s dolphins were recorded as part of the programme, one live release and one mortality. These have been included in DOC’s Hector’s dolphin incident database, which is available online at http://www.doc.govt.nz/dolphinincidents .
DOC and MPI are both encouraged by the preliminary results of this technology trial and are very aware that fisheries need to be able to demonstrate their sustainable use of marine resources, including providing information that allows impacts on protected species to be assessed and managed.
Steve Halley, MPI’s Acting Inshore Fisheries Manager, says the results of the programme will be combined with the results of other research currently underway to inform future management decisions on impacts on Hector’s dolphins. This includes a new abundance survey, the first since 1998.
“The fishing industry and Government agree it’s essential they continue to work alongside each other to find cost-effective monitoring alternatives that will provide robust and reliable information.” said DOC Marine Species and Threats Manager, Ian Angus.
Alongside MPI Observers, who monitored 75 fishing events, there was electronic monitoring of 170 fishing trips by equipment on board 80% of the set net fishing vessels which operated out of Timaru during the 2012/13 season. The seafood industry, together with the Ministry for Primary Industries, have invested approximately $300,000 into the programme, including both observers and electronic technology. Further observations, both by observers and electronic monitoring, are expected later this year.
Hector’s dolphins are found predominantly around the South Island. Latest population estimate was approximately 7000 individuals, but this is being updated by an aerial survey. Updated population estimates are expected later this year.
Maui’s dolphins are found predominantly on the West Coast of the North Island down to Taranaki. It is estimated there are approximately 55 adults.