Māori fisheries and govt move to protect Māui dolphin

By Piripi Taylor

Commercial fishing vessels will be required to operate with on-board cameras by the end of the year in an attempt to save the rare Māui dolphin population, and Māori are playing their part in helping to protect the endangered mammals.

It is estimated just 63 adult Maui dolphins remain in our waters. From November 1st, commercial fishing vessels who target snapper, tarakihi, gurnard and john dory in the known habitat of the Maui dolphin, between Northland and Taranaki, will be required to operate with on-board cameras.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it's crucial we act to protect this fragile population of marine mammals.

"On-board cameras will give us independent, accurate information about the impacts of commercial fishing in this area. It will encourage compliance and ensure fishing practices are sustainable and verified."

From Auckland's fishing docks, the PM, alongside Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash, made the announcement saying that the 2019 Budget set aside $17.1 mil over four years for the purchase, installation and maintenance of the cameras, as well as the costs of storage, review and analysis of the footage. Māori are applauding the move.

Chair of Māori owned Moana New Zealand, Whaimutu Dewes says, "The PM and the government are leading the way and showing that we are not just sitting around and that we should be working together to protect the Maui dolphin."

Moana NZ have trialled on-board cameras for the last 5 years and their three contracted-vessels in the habitat zone continue to do so. They've also discontinued the use of trawl and set nets in the area, but 28 other vessels still continue the practice.

"Moana and companies like us are looking at ways how we could soon discontinue the use of those types of nets in all our NZ waters, and look at new ways of sustainable fishing," says Dewes.

The roll-out of cameras in the Māui dolphin habitat will allow time to refine systems before a wider camera programme is considered.

There is no talk so far regarding calls to ban set nets and trawling in the area. However, the government says greater protection for Hector's and Māui dolphins will be achieved through a review of the Threat Management Plan to be released for public consultation shortly.