Government research into disease and the effects of pollution on the Maui's dolphin would go further to preserve the species than extending the set net ban, a commercial fishing industry spokesman says.
A proposed 350 square kilometre extension of the commercial set net ban off Taranaki's coast aimed at protecting the endangered dolphin has angered fishermen who operate in the area.
Commercial fishing boats in Taranaki have been carrying Government observers on board for more than a year and no dolphin sightings have been recorded.
Environment Minister Nick Smith said he was acting on five sightings of Maui's dolphins over recent years in the proposed extension area. New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishermen president Doug Saunders-Loder said the Government plans seemed to lack scientific and logical backing.
"It is irresponsible for the Government to decline to put investment into the disease toxoplasmosis, known to be devastating to Maui's.
"There has to be intense and immediate research into disease, the effects of pollution and the possibility of assisted reproduction for this subspecies to have a chance to continue," he said.
"Instead we get creeping bans further and further away from where there are any Maui's to protect."
Mr Saunders-Loder said the proposed extension seemed to be some sort of "regulatory appeasement policy" when the sightings that Dr Smith was acting on were questionable.
"The official DOC register shows there have been no Maui's mortalities which might be a result of fishing since before the first set net bans were implemented off Waikato in 2003.
"Citing figures from before then, more than a decade ago, and from much further north as Nick Smith's office has done to justify further restrictions is misleading."
New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young said the planned extension reached too far south, with some parts which are critical to local fishermen but have not had any confirmed sightings of either Maui's or Hector's dolphins.
Pushing the exclusion zone further north than the Waiwhakaiho seemed to be the right midway point, he said.
"We need a midway point where people's livelihoods aren't needlessly sacrificed but we are doing all that is possible to protect the endangered Maui's dolphin.
"I will be asking him [Dr Smith] to back up a bit, so the fishing grounds off the Waiwhakaiho River are still accessible to the local fishing industry."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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