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Hector’s dolphin capture triggers actions – MPI

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 two Hector’s dolphins per year, putting this incident at 50 percent of the limit.

About the Plan

The South Island Hector’s Dolphin Bycatch Reduction Plan was launched in November 2022 to strengthen extensive fisheries restrictions already in place to protect Hector’s dolphins. It outlines a suite of regulatory and voluntary measures designed to reduce Hector’s dolphin bycatch towards zero.

Under the Plan, there are fishing related mortality limits (FRMLs) that set the maximum limit of fishing-related deaths that could occur in an area and 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 two Hector’s dolphins per year, putting this incident at 50% of the limit.

The Plan is available here:

Further information

  • Hector’s dolphin is classified as ‘Nationally Vulnerable’. The total South Island population has most recently been estimated between 12,000 and 18,500. The East Coast South Island population, where the reported capture has occurred, is approximately 9,000.
  • Under the Hector’s and Māui Dolphin Threat Management Plan, extensive fisheries restrictions have been put in place to reduce the risk of fishing-related deaths of these dolphins. For the South Island this includes:
    • approximately 17,650km2 is closed to set netting, and
    • measures, such as closures and gear restrictions, for trawl fishing are in place for approximately 6,988km2.
  • The South Island Hector’s Dolphin Bycatch Reduction Plan outlines a suite of regulatory and voluntary measures designed to reduce Hector’s dolphin bycatch towards zero. The plan included the establishment of Fishing-Related Mortality Limits (FRMLs) for 5 local Hector’s dolphin populations and one subpopulation.
  • The limit regulates a maximum number of fishing-related deaths that could occur in an area and enables the Minister to respond quickly with additional regulatory measures to ensure the limit is not exceeded. For the Otago local population, the FRML is set at 2 Hector’s dolphins per fishing year (1 October to 30 September).
  • This is the third incident of a Hector’s dolphin being reported caught by commercial fishers this fishing year; one Hector’s dolphin was caught in a commercial set net off Kaikoura and another was caught in a trawler off Bank Peninsula. There were 5 reported caught by commercial fishers in the 2022-23 fishing year.

 

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