The government’s proposed Threat Management Plan (TMP) for Hector’s and Maui dolphin will put hundreds of small fishermen out of business and hundreds of millions of dollars will be lost from regional economies – and may not save one dolphin.
Not one Maui dolphin has been confirmed caught by a commercial fisherman since 2002 and, while recognising Maui are critically endangered, the TMP itself claims toxoplasmosis, a cat-borne disease that enters waterways, is the main threat to Maui. It also concedes that set netting may capture an estimated one dolphin every 10 years and in the trawl fishery one in 50 years.
The Hector’s dolphin meanwhile is numbered at around 15,700 and the science shows the numbers are increasing.
Seafood New Zealand chief executive, Tim Pankhurst, says the current restrictions on fishing in dolphin waters around New Zealand are already significant, with 15,000 square kilometres of ocean already closed.
“The seafood industry has devoted a great deal of time, effort and money into reducing risks to marine mammals and will continue to do so.
“However, any further restrictions must be based on sound science, unlike the current proposition. This is no longer about dolphins. It is an environmentally-driven, anti-fishing agenda that gives no consideration to the livelihoods of fishermen and their families.
“Yet the proposal has no socio-economic analysis. What about the wellbeing of our fishers?,” said Pankhurst.
The paucity of science behind the current proposals was highlighted recently at a meeting attended by Fisheries NZ and around 200 locals at Kawhia (August 2). The proposed set net ban for all west coast harbours from Maunganui Bluff to New Plymouth threatened to close those fishermen down, yet no Maui dolphin had ever been seen in the Kawhia Harbour.
“The fishermen affected by this proposal are not large corporates. They are the people who supply your local fish and chip shop. They are fishing small, inshore quota, many the result of Treaty settlements. All of these fishers are committed to protecting the environment and biodiversity. They hate the thought of catching a dolphin and their fishing practices reflect that.”
The consultation paper dispassionately states that hundreds of fishers will be ‘affected’.
“That means wiped out,” said Pankhurst. “There is no discussion in the document on human impacts, compensation or transitional assistance. What’s proposed in the dolphin TMP is simply to close down vast areas of the coast to fishing and forget about the fishers, their families, the processing facilities and the wider communities they support, right across New Zealand.
“Seafood New Zealand strongly supports efforts to save the Maui and to further protect their more numerous close relative, the Hector’s dolphin. We support the appropriate extension of scientifically based exclusion zones, the use of dolphin deterring technology, the enhanced use of observers and the current camera trial.
“What we cannot countenance is the obliteration of small fishing operators and what amounts to theft of property and Treaty rights,” said Pankhurst.
Read Seafood New Zealand’s submission on the Hector’s and Maui dolphin TMP here.