Commercial gill nets used to catch fish for New
Zealanders' fish and chips are one of the biggest threats to
Hector's and Maui's dolphins, University of Otago marine
scientist Steve Dawson says.
Yesterday he warned the 1200 people attending the 20th
Biennial Biology of Marine Mammal Conference to check what
fish they were offered when ordering fish and chips in New
Zealand and avoid elephant fish, school shark and rig,
recommending they ''make another choice''.
In a keynote address, titled A flagship of New Zealand
Conservation if Foundering, Prof Dawson said while it had
been shown the Banks Peninsula marine mammal sanctuary, which
excluded gill netting from Hector's habitat, had enabled
significant improvements in the dolphins' survival rates,
numbers were still declining in key areas around the country.
''The recovery of the population is very slow.''
The most at-risk was the population of 55 Maui's dolphins on
the North Island west coast which included only 12 to 15
''If that doesn't fill you with dread, I don't know what
In New Zealand, there was a strong anti-science culture where
it was seen as of no special merit, so as a result there was
a disconnect between science and management.
Biologists saw the information they presented as being of a
It was important for scientists to put robust studies
together as when management measures were put in place
designed to address a problem it was assumed it would fix the
''Unless we go out there, no-one will do that. If we sit on
our hands, populations desperately threatened will slip
quietly out the door.''
Scientists would face challenges including that of a
government such as the National Government which had a growth
agenda often directly in opposition to conservation.