A break with tradition in Maui's dolphin protection
decision-making could be a positive move for the world's rarest
and smallest dolphin, a University of Otago researcher says.
Conservation Minister Nick Smith is proposing a 350sq km
extension to the set net fishing ban off the coast of
Taranaki to protect the critically endangered Maui's
dolphins. There had been five reported sightings of the
dolphins in that area over recent years.
''I am taking a cautious approach by banning set netting
where there is clear evidence Mauis go, while not
unnecessarily banning fishing where they are not.''
However, this proposal is not the threat management plan
conservationists have been waiting for - that decision, on an
extension of the 2km offshore ban from New Plymouth to
Hawera, is not due until next month. Dr Smith said his
proposal to extend the set net ban beyond that proposed in
the draft threat management plan would enable the complete
plan to be finalised.
University of Otago Assoc Prof Liz Slooten, a specialist
in Maui's and Hector's dolphins, said since the 1990s the
ministers of the Department of Conservation and the predecessor
of the Ministry for Primary Industries had issued joint
decisions on such protection.
''It's very interesting Doc has gone it alone and made a
recommendation. Maybe they're as impatient as the rest of
While it could lead to a potentially complicated jigsaw of
regulations off the North Island west coast, it could also be
Dr Smith was able to propose an extension to the Waitara set
net ban under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), as it
was within the West Coast North Island marine mammal
sanctuary, she said.
But it needed to be gazetted, so it was open for public
submissions until October 10.
''The good news is Nick Smith gets it, that we need more
The MMPA had not been challenged by the fishing industry in
the past, whereas Fisheries Act decisions had.
Primary Industry Minister Nathan Guy had to make his
decisions based on the Fisheries Act, which had the fishing
industry as well as the fishery as its priorities, Prof