10, Sep, 2007

Draft Hector's and Maui's Dolphin Threat Management Plan

Category: ECO Inc

The Department of Conservation and the Ministry of Fisheries has released a threat management plan (TMP) for the Hector’s and its north island sub-species Maui’s dolphin.

Hector’s dolphins are endemic to New Zealand. The species is divided into two subspecies (based on genetic differences), in South Island waters (Hector’s dolphin), and in the waters of the north-west coast of the North Island (Maui’s dolphin).

Hector's dolphin, with a population of around 7,270, are classified as endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Maui's dolphin has an estimated population of just 111 and is classified as critically endangered by the IUCN.

The Draft TMP seeks to:

  • Describe the nature and extent of threats to Hectors and Maui’s dolphins, and
  • Implement strategies to reduce those threats which are human induced.

The Draft Threat Management Plan consists of three key sections:

1. Context– what we know about New Zealand’s dolphin situation This section also introduces regional threat management proposals that incorporate fishing related options, proposed non-fishing measures, marine mammal sanctuaries, research and monitoring.

2. Initial Position Paper – identification of draft measures to treat fishing related threats

Option 3 is the only options to provide comprehensive protection allow the species to recover to their former abundance and range. Scientists estimate there were more than 26,000 Hector's dolphins in the 1970s while there is little over 7,000 today.

This option would include banning:

  • set nets in harbours on the west coast of the North Island, from Kaipara to Cape Egmont, out to 12 nautical miles (nm);
  • drift nets at Port Waikato;
  • set nets in Hector's dolphin areas in the South Island out to 6nm on the west coast and 12 nm on the east coast;
  • trawling from Maunganui Bluff to Cape Egmont out to 4nm and in Hector's dolphin areas around the south island out to 2nm.

3. Proposed Marine mammal sanctuaries – identification of important Maui’s and Hector’s dolphin habitat

The plan proposes four new marine mammal sanctuaries:

  • West Coast of the North Island – which should include all the range of Maui’s dolphin including the West Coast harbours.
  • Clifford and Cloudy Bay in Marlborough
  • Porpoise Bay/Fortrose, Catlins Coast
  • Te Waewae Bay, South Coast.

It is also proposed to extend the existing Banks Peninsula marine mammal sanctuary in Canterbury.

Disappointingly there is no proposal for a West Coast South Island marine mammals sanctuary to protect the largest population of the dolphins.

Submissions close on the draft plan on 24 October 2007 and can be sent to: Dolphin Threat Management Plan, PO Box 11-146, Wellington 6011 or email: Hectorstmp@biodiversity.govt.nz

If you have any questions or require clarification on any part of the draft plan please contact the the Ministry of Fisheries or Department of Conservation.