Dolphin research spurs call to ban set nets

Scientists are calling for a complete ban on set net fishing in Akaroa Harbour after research revealed the endangered Hector's dolphins are venturing into the harbour further and more often than previously thought.

After monitoring the signals of Hector's dolphins in the harbour for a year, University of Otago scientists announced the species was frequenting the harbour on days during the recreational fishing concession period when set nets could be used.

Set nets are banned during summer, the time which was believed to be the only time the dolphins were present in the harbour.

However, dolphin expert Professor Steve Dawson said their research revealed the dolphins were detected on 41 per cent of the days of the recreational fishing period.

What was most surprising, Dawson said, was evidence of the dolphins' high usage of the innermost harbour where flounder fishing is popular.

As a result, Dawson had now ramped up his crusade for a complete ban on set nets in the harbour year-round.

University marine researchers would also like to see the ban put in place up to 35 kilometres offshore, the area which the species is thought to inhabit. The current ban extends only 7km offshore.

"Dolphins are worth much more alive. Marine tourism in Akaroa Harbour is worth more than recreational fishing."

The Press