The death of a Hector’s dolphin in an Otago commercial fishing set net underscores the need for a ban on commercial fishing throughout the dolphins’ habitat, say advocates from Māui and Hector’s Dolphin Defenders.

Fisheries NZ has announced the death of the adult female Hector’s dolphin which occurred off Taiaroa Heads at the weekend. “The population of Hector’s from this area is around only around 40 individuals. Every dolphin matters”, says Dolphin Defenders Chair, Christine Rose.

This area was excluded from the 2020 Hector’s Threat Management Plan, which the Minister of the time recognised put the dolphins at increased risk of fishing related bycatch. Subsequently, the Government consulted on fisheries management measures supposedly to address that risk.

But Dolphin Defenders Chair Rose says that was a farce. “The industry developed the proposals to suit themselves. Despite the known risk of commercial fishing to these dolphins, the Government adopted the industry voluntary-only proposals. It’s that sort of abrogation of duty – empowering the fishing industry at the cost of dolphin lives and the species as a whole, that is seeing these dolphins continuing to suffer and die”.

This might be the first reported dolphin death in the specific area in a few years but it’s unlikely to be the only death overall. It’s in addition to an adult and calf Hector’s dolphin killed by the commercial fishing industry earlier this year.”

Rose says, “One also wonders if this death was not witnessed by an observer whether it would have been reported. It supports the case for complete observer and camera coverage across the whole fishing fleet. But even more importantly, there should be no commercial fishing in the dolphin habitat at all.”

Dolphin Defenders Deputy Chair Genevieve Robinson says “having been born and bred in Dunedin, and knowing so few coastal protections exist, seeing yet another Hector’s dolphin death in the New Zealand commercial fishery, is a serious kick in the guts. It’s simply not acceptable”

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