Four months into an extensive observation programme and still no endangered Maui's dolphins have been seen off the Taranaki coast.
The result is exactly what commercial fishermen said Primary Industries Ministry observers would find, and will have to be considered in the Government's review of the Threat Management Plan for Maui's dolphins this month.
Taranaki commercial fishing spokesman Keith Mawson said he hoped it was enough to persuade the Government against increasing restrictions imposed in July that had already pushed fishermen out of their most lucrative fishing grounds.
"There is no need for further restrictions. We have had observers on board and they have not observed any dolphins and we don't think they are going to. And if they do they will have to get biopsies," Mr Mawson said.
Under interim protection measures, set netting within 3.7km of shore is prohibited. It is allowed 3.7km and 13km offshore, but only with an observer aboard.
The measures are designed to protect the Maui's dolphin, of which just 55 individuals older than a year are estimated to remain.
The ministry has three options in its review affecting restrictions on set netting off the Taranaki coast.
The first two involve retaining the current measures but differ on who pays for the observers, while the third option pushes the set-net ban out to 7.4km with observers needed between there and 13km.
These options fall well short of those demanded by Forest and Bird marine conservation advocate Katrina Subedar, who said the ministry and the Conservation Department acknowledged Maui's dolphins faced a high risk of extinction.
"So why doesn't this government take this threat seriously? It should immediately ban all gill nets and trawlers from where these dolphins are found, which is offshore to the 100-metre depth contour and within all harbours along the west coast of the North Island," she said.
Public submissions on the review of the Maui's dolphin threat management plan close at 5pm on November 12.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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