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Hector’s dolphin caught in a fishing net

2 min read
Hector’s dolphin

Hector’s dolphins are the smallest and rarest marine dolphins in the world. Photo: Adobe Stock

A single Hector’s dolphin was caught in a fishing net off the Otago Peninsula, triggering actions designed to provide further protection from fishing activity.

This was the first capture of a Hector’s dolphin in the area for the current fishing year (beginning 1 October).

The incident involved a commercial set net vessel operating outside of the Hector’s dolphin protection zone where set netting is prohibited.

“As a nationally vulnerable species, the loss of any Hector’s dolphin is extremely disappointing,” said Marianne Lukkien, acting director fisheries management, Fisheries New Zealand.

“It sets in motion specific actions in the bycatch reduction plan for the South Island’s Hector’s dolphins to reduce accidental captures of these precious taonga.”

Lukkien said the fishing industry had been notified and discussions were underway with fishers and industry representatives on what additional measures can be voluntarily implemented to avoid further captures.

“Following this, Fisheries New Zealand will brief ministers on whether further regulatory changes should be considered,” Lukkien said.

All commercial set net vessels in the region are fitted with an onboard camera. The operator of the fishing vessel reported the capture, which took place on 10 November 2023, as being a different species of dolphin. Fisheries New Zealand used footage from the onboard camera to confirm the species as a Hector’s dolphin.

Under the South Island Hector’s dolphin Bycatch Reduction Plan, there are fishing-related mortality limits (FRMLs) that set the maximum limit of fishing-related deaths in an area. For the Otago region, the FRML is set at two Hector’s dolphins per year, putting this incident at 50% of the limit.

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