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Loki would be used in a campaign to protect the endangered Hector’s dolphin in Southern waters.
At the launch, the campaign leader warned recreational fishers their nets would be removed from waters if set illegally.
But a recreational fisher spokesman said the marine conservation organisation lacked a mandate, and it should leave the nets in the water.
Sea Shepherd New Zealand Operation Pahu campaign leader Grant Meikle launched the new vessel at Back Beach to applause from about 10 fellow members yesterday.
In the first phase of the campaign, the "fast vessel" would focus its patrol searching for nets set illegally by recreational fishers and commercial operations between Te Waewae Bay and Canterbury Bight.
"Now it will defend the dolphins in New Zealand," Mr Meikle said.
Setting a net within 7.4km of the coast was illegal and using trawl nets within 3.7km of the coast was a restricted activity.
"If those laws are adhered to, fishermen have nothing to be concerned about."
At the launch yesterday, Mr Meikle said the "passionate" volunteer crew would remove the nets of recreational fishers from waters, if set illegally.
If a commercial operation was acting illegally, the volunteers would alert the Ministry of Primary Industries, he said.
Green Island Fishing Club secretary Steve Bennett, of Brighton, said the Sea Shepherd crew should not touch the set nets of recreational fishers.Any concerns about nets should be raised with the ministry.
"It’s an MPI matter rather than a Sea Shepherd matter ... it’s not their job."
Recreational fishers set nets in harbours, estuaries and rivers and did not set nets in the sea because it was too dangerous to travel beyond 7.4km, he said.
Mr Bennett, a South-East Marine Protection Forum member representing recreational fishers, had never seen, or heard of a Hector’s dolphins ever being south of Moeraki.
Mr Meikle, of Dunedin, said Hector’s dolphins lived along the coastline, including a pod of 200 at Te Waewae Bay, 12 at Oreti Beach, about 50 in the Catlins and 42 between Dunedin and Oamaru, including a pod of 21 at Blueskin Bay.