North Island set net fishers urged to set nets carefully

  • Jim Anderton
Fisheries and Aquaculture

Fishers setting nets along the North Island’s west coast this summer are urged to avoid areas frequented by the endangered Maui’s dolphin, and to follow the Ministry of Fisheries’ set net code of practice at all times.

Just this week 2 of their close relatives, Hector's dolphins, were killed in set nets off the Otago coast, and 4 were killed in November off the West Coast. The fishers involved in this week's event did the right thing and reported the incident to the Ministry of Fisheries, however, it is even more important that fishers take measures to avoid killing these endangered mammals.

The Maui’s dolphin is the world's rarest marine dolphin, with an estimated population of only 111 animals. This makes it our marine equivalent of the kakapo. These creatures live close inshore, along the North Island’s west coast, and are most often found on the stretch of coast from New Plymouth to Dargaville. They are particularly at risk of getting caught in set nets and drowning.

"There are so few of these dolphins left that every single one is special. They are thought to reproduce very slowly, like their South Island ‘cousin’ the Hector’s dolphin, so we can’t afford to lose even one of them," Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said.

"Because these dolphins are so rare, we have banned all recreational and commercial set netting from their known range - that is from just north of New Plymouth to Dargaville. This includes a set net ban at the mouth of Manukau Harbour.

"But in case dolphins move outside of these areas, we urge all recreational set netters to be particularly careful, and make sure they are familiar with the Set Net Code of Practice.

"I have asked the Ministry to review the use of set netting particularly in areas of high risk to threatened and/or endangered species," Jim Anderton said.

The Set Net Code of Practice is available on the Ministry of Fisheries website,

As a general guide, set netters should:
·Avoid open beaches.
·Not set net if dolphins are present.
·Not set nets overnight.
·Stay near your net.
·Check your net regularly.
·Keep your net set taut.
·Set your nets for as short a time as possible.
·Maintain your gear in good repair.
·Keep an eye out for dolphins.
·Remove your net if dolphins turn up.

The Government is working on a Threat Management Plan for Maui’s and Hector’s Dolphins, run jointly by the Department of Conservation and the Ministry of Fisheries in conjunction with an advisory group of stakeholders. The aim is to better define threats to Maui’s and Hector’s dolphin populations and how to best manage those threats, including those posed by recreational and commercial set net fishing.

If you have any questions regarding the setting of your net, contact your local DOC or MFish office.