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Industry Critical of Fishing Ban Extension

10 September 2013

NEW ZEALAND - The commercial fishing industry says it can see neither science nor logic in the government’s proposal to extend the fishing ban off Taranaki to protect Maui’s dolphins.

The President of the New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishermen, Doug Saunders-Loder, says the industry will be presenting strong submissions against the so termed Waitara extension, which has just been announced.

“Over the past year DOC and MPI have put a huge effort into finding Maui’s in the waters concerned. They have found none,” he says.

“Suddenly, just as the government is about to make decisions on the Maui’s Dolphin Threat Management Plan, some historical sightings have come to light. It’s all just anecdote.”

“There are comparatively recent sightings which DOC classes only as Level Three reliability. There is one sighting which is Level Two, but it was six or seven years ago. There are no sightings from professional observers and no photos or videos have been provided.”

“We know that the far more common Hector’s dolphin will sometimes swim up the coast from the South Island. There have been five of these confirmed as Hector’s recorded between 1967 and last year. Whereas current DNA sampling shows all of the Maui’s are north of Raglan, which is the same latitude as Hamilton.”

“So it is likely that any observations reported, and the un-sampled dolphin caught last year off Taranaki, are also Hector’s. There is no actual evidence that Maui’s come remotely as far south as the proposed ban extension.”

Doug Saunders-Loder has also questioned the government’s selection of evidence of Maui’s mortality in the past.

“The official DOC register shows there have been no Maui’s mortalities which might be a result of fishing, since before the first set net bans were implemented off Waikato in 2003,” he says.

“Citing figures from before then, more than a decade ago, and from much further north, as Nick Smith’s office has done to justify further restrictions, is misleading.”

Doug Saunders-Loder is emphatic the fishing industry is concerned about the survival of the Maui’s dolphin.

“It is irresponsible for the government to decline to put investment into the disease toxoplasmosis, which is known to be devastating Maui’s. There has to be intense and immediate research into disease, the effects of pollution and the possibility of assisted reproduction, for this subspecies to have a chance to continue,” he says.

“Instead we get creeping fishing bans further and further away from where there are any Maui’s to protect. It seems to be some sort of regulatory appeasement policy which further hurts the fishing industry and does no good at all for Maui’s dolphins.”

TheFishSite News Desk

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