It is "very rare" for dolphins to die in set nets along the Marlborough coast, say Conservation Department staff.
The Marlborough Recreational Fishers Association wants the Government to end the ban on recreational set-net fishing, which has been in place along the east coast of Marlborough since 2008.
Association chairman Tony Orman said the ban was discriminatory as it did not stop commercial fishermen setting nets, and there was no evidence of deaths in recreational nets to support the ban.
Also, recreational nets were limited to 60 metres, but commercial nets could be hundreds of metres long and posed a greater risk.
The ministry planned to lift the ban earlier this year but decided to keep the ban after two dolphin deaths in Canterbury could have been caused by a recreational net.
DOC ranger Mike Morrissey, of Kaikoura, said the last dolphin caught in any set net was found on a commercial fishing boat off the Kaikoura Coast about two years ago. He had not heard any reports for a long time of dolphins being stuck in recreational set nets.
The last reported dolphin fatality was a dusky dolphin, found dead after several weeks on a beach near Ward in October. That was the first reported death of a beached dolphin in four of five years. The cause of death was not known.
Dolphins caught in set nets usually washed up on beaches with water in their lungs from drowning and bruising, on their skin from the entanglement. Dolphins which washed up needed to be sent to Massey University scientists for an autopsy to determine how they had died.
DOC Sounds Area office manager Roy Grose said the worst incident was when about six common dolphins were caught in a commercial fishing net about 10 years ago near French Pass.
"Very rarely do we find dolphins on beaches. Typically, they would be the ones that might have been caught in a recreational net, but it can be very hard to tell . . . It is not an offence to kill a marine mammal in a net but it is an offence not to report it. There's been examples elsewhere where they've been killed, weighted down in deep water or buried."
- The Marlborough Express