New measures to further protect South Island Hector’s dolphins

Oceans and Fisheries

New measures announced today will further manage the impacts of fishing on South Island Hector’s dolphins.

Hector’s dolphins are nationally vulnerable with about 15,000 in New Zealand’s waters.

“We need to work to reduce the number of these dolphins killed by fishing to as close to zero as possible,” Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker said.

“While current measures have been effective in significantly reducing the risks of dolphin deaths from fishing, more action is needed to protect populations throughout their natural range. 

“While the suite of measures we are implementing includes an extension of the commercial and recreational set net closures around Banks Peninsula, its key focus is on implementing a plan to reduce accidental catch of Hector’s dolphins in the long term.

“This plan will incentivise and support fishers to improve their practices and avoid all Hector’s dolphin bycatch. It also sets regulatory limits for bycatch so that I can act quickly and impose further restrictions if necessary.

“The introduction of new technology like on-board cameras, real time catch reporting and monitoring of commercial vessel location allow us to better protect these dolphins while allowing fishing to continue,” David Parker said.

These give greater certainty that fishing-related dolphin deaths will not exceed the levels necessary to allow these populations to thrive and recover.

“The measures build on the restrictions already in place to reduce fishing-related threats to these precious species,” David Parker said.

“Fishing supports communities throughout the South Island. The new measures will improve protection while also allowing fishers to continue to provide an important economic contribution to our coastal communities.”

David Parker said there were significant other risks to Hector’s dolphin, including the disease toxoplasmosis. The Government has committed funding to understanding and reducing the threat of toxoplasmosis.

Summary of the changes:

  • Extending the commercial and recreational set net fishing closure offshore around Banks Peninsula, which will prevent the transfer of set net fishing activity into this area from those areas that were closed in 2020.
  • A Bycatch Reduction Plan that will be applied to all South Island Hector’s dolphin subpopulations. The Plan, while allowing fishing to continue, has a mix of regulatory and voluntary measures that will incentivise and support fishers to improve their fishing practices and avoid all Hector’s dolphin bycatch.

In the South Island about 16,500 km2 of the coastline is closed to set netting. That will increase to about 17,600 km2 under the new measures. In addition, trawl closures and gear restrictions cover more than 6,900 km2 of the coastline.

Public consultation on the measures took place late last year.

The changes are expected to be implemented by the end of 2022.