Otago's yellow-eyed penguins are the winners and
endangered Maui's and Hector's dolphins on the North Island's
east coast the losers in the latest round of observer programme
The Department of Conservation released its conservation
services programme plan recently, outlining the observer
programme for New Zealand's commercial fisheries for 2014-15.
University of Otago marine scientist Liz Slooten said the
increase in observer days by 77 to 2487 made for an
''ineffective observer programme''.
''What needs to happen in the inshore fishery is that number
needs to be doubled or trebled.''
Added to that was the shift of observer hours from one
fishery to another, and in some cases to fisheries that had
no impact on Maui's or Hector's dolphins, such as on the west
coast of the North Island, she said.
There appeared to be no clear rationale for the move or for
why some fisheries were observed 25% of the time and others
65% of the time, she said.
For the trawl fishery on the east coast of the North Island,
only 25% observer coverage was planned, yet there was less
protection for the dolphins from the fishery in that area.
''It's really urgent we find out the impact on dolphins and
sea lions in the inshore trawl fisheries.''
The Government did not appear to be listening to its
scientists' advice, which stated they could not establish an
accurate estimate of dolphin by-catch in those areas because
of a lack of information, she said.
However, the east and south coasts of the South Island
benefited from these changes, with observers to monitor
penguin interactions 65% of the time along the east coast set
net fishery and 100% of the time in the small inshore
Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust field officer Dave McFarlane was
pleased with the observer coverage assigned to Otago's
yellow-eyed penguin foraging and breeding areas along the
coast from Waitaki to Slope Point, and from Stewart Island to
The trust had been saying for many years more information was
needed on set-net fishing impacts on penguins as the
population declined and faced challenges related to the sea
such as starvation.
''These are not helped by by-catch. There is a clear need for
this,'' he said.
Ministry for Primary Industries inshore fisheries manager
Steve Halley said coverage decisions were informed by many
processes, including previous observer data, ministerial
decisions and available risk assessments, the nature of the
fishing activity, potential overlap with the protected
species and the likely risk of an interaction occurring.
For Maui's dolphins, ministerial decisions informed observer
coverage, including mandatory observer coverage on commercial
set-net vessels around Taranaki and an increase in observer
coverage of the trawl fishery on the west coast of the North
Island from 25% in the first year to 100% in four years'
time, Mr Halley said.