A Hector’s dolphin has died after being caught in a fishing net off the Otago Peninsula, the Department of Conservation (DOC) has reported today.
It is the first fishing-related Hector’s dolphin death reported in the area since at least 2012.
“Hector’s dolphins are classified as nationally vulnerable and the loss of any is extremely disappointing,” says Fisheries New Zealand director fisheries management, Emma Taylor.
“This incident triggers specific actions set out in the Government’s plan to reduce accidental captures of these precious taonga.”
The dolphin was caught in a commercial fishing set net on Sunday outside of the Hector’s dolphin protection zone. The vessel, which was carrying a Fisheries observer, had been targeting school shark, a common species sold in many fish and chip shops.
The vessel’s skipper reported the capture to Fisheries New Zealand and the dolphin was brought to shore for DOC to send for necropsy.
The South Island Hector’s Dolphin Bycatch Reduction Plan was launched in November last year 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 fisheries 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.
“We are meeting with industry representatives and local set net fishers to discuss and develop immediate voluntary measures and collective action that can be taken to avoid any further captures of Hector’s dolphins in the area.”
“Following this, Fisheries New Zealand will brief the ministers on whether further regulatory changes should be considered,” Ms Taylor said.