A late-night spying operation has unearthed potential evidence of commercial fishing in a Banks Peninsula marine sanctuary.
Earthrace Conservation founder Pete Bethune said a week of ''covert surveillance'' by plane, boat and kayaks this year unearthed evidence of illegal fishing in the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary.
The footage has been passed on to the Ministry for Primary Industries, which is understood to be investigating.
Bethune and eight volunteers carried out the operation because they were concerned Hector's dolphins were being caught and killed.
He said commercial vessels were in the sanctuary gill-netting and trawling. Both methods kill the endangered dolphins.
''We are just relying on fishermen's honesty to preserve this [sanctuary], and from what we saw last week we can't trust them. All it takes is a few scumbags,'' Bethune said.
''At the moment it is not a sanctuary, it is a killing field.''
The sanctuary encompasses about 413,000 hectares and covers 389.31 kilometres of coastline, the ministry's website says.
There are tight restrictions in place to protect wildlife. The area is a popular spot for the endangered dolphins.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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