A single Hector's dolphin caught in a fishing net off the Otago peninsula has triggered actions designed to provide further protection from fishing activity.
"As a nationally vulnerable species, the loss of any Hector's dolphin is extremely disappointing," says Marianne Lukkien, acting director fisheries management, Fisheries New Zealand.
"This is the first capture of a Hector's dolphin in this area for the current fishing year (beginning 1 October). It sets in motion specific actions in the bycatch reduction plan for the South Island’s Hector's dolphins to reduce accidental captures of these precious taonga."
The incident involved a commercial set net vessel operating outside of the Hector's dolphin protection zone where methods such as set netting are prohibited.
"The fishing industry have been notified and we are urgently discussing with fishers and industry representatives what additional measures can be voluntarily implemented to avoid further captures."
"Following this, Fisheries New Zealand will brief ministers on whether further regulatory changes should be considered," Marianne Lukkien said.
All commercial set net vessels in the region are fitted with an onboard camera. The operator of the fishing vessel reported the capture, which took place on 10 November, as being a different species of dolphin. Fisheries New Zealand used footage from the onboard camera to confirm the species as a Hector's dolphin.
Under the South Island Hector's dolphin Bycatch Reduction Plan, there are fishing-related mortality limits (FRMLs) that set the maximum limit of fishing-related deaths in an area so that the relevant population outcomes and fisheries objectives are met. FRMLs enable the Minister to respond quickly with additional regulatory measures to ensure the limit is not exceeded. The FRML for the Otago region is set at 2 Hector's dolphins per year, putting this incident at 50% of the limit.
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