Congratulations dolphin massive!

It’s definitely worthy of celebration! Our native dolphin species, the Maui’s and Hector’s just got granted a future of hope, thanks to the new fishing industry changes announced by the NZ Minister of Fisheries this week. It is sad that 65 fishermen that are losing their livelihoods, but at least humans have alternatives and can adapt new ways of getting by.  Let’s hope the government might spares them some compensation.

There is no way dolphins can get around the problem of set nets without drowning.  From October 2008, here are the changes that will come into effect.  For the finer details see:  Minister announces new measures to protect dolphins


* West coast, North Island.
* Clifford and Cloudy Bay, Marlborough.
* Porpoise Bay/Fortress, Catlins coast.
* Te Waewae Bay, Southland.

*Extension of Banks Peninsular sanctuary



* An extra $6 million over the next three years for observers on all commercial fishing vessels within the dolphins’ range

 South Island

East and South Coast:

* Set nets banned 4 miles from coastline (1 mile from coastline in Kaikoura Canyon area)

* Trawling restricted to 2 miles from coastline

West Coast:

* Recreational set net ban 2 miles from coastline

*Commercial set net ban 2 miles from coastline during Dec-Feb

Industry Effects:

$80 million over 10 years to fishing industry

65 fishermen out of fishing work

 It is estimated that Hector’s dolphins already bring in $24 million a year in tourist dollars, and the new measures will help increase this.

 That’s well over $240 million for our economy over 10 years.

Just think of all the fish we will have around our coastal waters as a result of these new fishing regulations.  So many other ocean species benefit from these changes.  Although these changes are a huge step in the right direction, the dolphins are still in a critical situation and need our ongoing monitoring and support. This is option 2 of the Threat Management Plan, and is not nearly as effective for protecting the dolphins as Option 3, or better still Option 4. The new legislation only keeps them at their current population level and does nothing to increase their numbers. Their numbers will only increase with COMPLETE protection in their current and historical range.  For more info see Liz Slooten’s recently published scientific article about the effectiveness of 4 management options.

The dolphin link between the North and South Islands is still not safe  for them to travel across. This is scientific suicide for the Maui dolphins as they need this genetic lifeline, free from as many dangers as possible if they are to survive the long term. To keep the Maui dolphin family healthy they need to interbreed with Hector’s as often they can, as they have traditionally for thousands of years. 


The regulations on the West Coast of the South Island only apply in Summer.  From past experience, when the Marine Mammal Sanctuary in Akaroa was getting established we know temporal regulations don’t work.  They are hard to regulate, standards slip and dolphins still die.  Dolphins do generally spend time closer to shore in summer, but they can be seen within several metres from shore anytime in winter. 

All in all though it’s great news and the biggest fisheries changes our nation has seen in 20 years! Our coastal waters just got a whole lot more richer and sustainable.  Line fishing is going to get a revival. And our dolphins are now on their way to a slow recovery.  




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