Fishermen reject liability for Hector's dolphin death

Otago fishermen are upset at an implication they could be to blame for a Hector's dolphin found mutilated on Moeraki beach last month.

Forest and Bird released a statement saying it was feared the mutilations might have been inflicted by unscrupulous fishermen who had accidentally caught Hector's dolphins in their nets.

The Moeraki dolphin was one of 37 found mutilated since 1980, it said. Hector's dolphins are an endangered species.

However, the statement went on to say a Massey University pathologist who performed an autopsy on the dolphin reported its wound was inflicted after death, but could not confidently say the dolphin was fishing bycatch.

Forest and Bird marine conservation advocate Kirstie Knowles said the Moeraki incident was the first mutilated Hector's dolphin found in Otago.

One had been found at Te Waewae Bay in Southland in 1996 but the majority came from the West Coast, Canterbury and Kaikoura.

Moeraki-based New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishing liaison officer John McLellan said it was frustrating commercial fishing got blamed whenever something like that happened.

"There are so many different reasons a dolphin may appear on the beach."

He had two beach themselves on the beach and rocks below his house. Fortunately, he saw them and, with help, was able to get them safely back to sea.

However, if he had not rescued them, the marks they had on them from thrashing about on the rocks would have again had people pointing the finger at commercial fishermen.

The majority of fishermen would do anything to ensure they protected wildlife like dolphins, he said.

Set netting restrictions came into force in October last year, so that could not be blamed either.

Taieri Mouth fisherman Gary Homan said he had never seen a Hector's dolphin caught in his many years fishing along the Otago coastline and, with the Ministry of Fisheries observer programme running for the past couple of months, it was unlikely a local fisherman could have caught the dolphin.


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