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Fishers praised over Maui dolphin move

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 14/12/2016

Two fishing companies changing their operations to help protect the endangered Maui dolphin have won praise from activists who say others and the government should follow.

Moana New Zealand - half owner of Sealord - and Sanford Limited have pledged to stop trawling around the dolphin's habitat from 2022 and from October next year won't allocate quota to boats using set nets in the area.

The habitat of the world's smallest and rarest dolphin runs from Maunganui Bluff in Northland to the Whanganui River mouth out to a depth of 100 metres.

Environmental group World Wildlife Fund New Zealand on Thursday called the move "inspiring", but said the two companies alone could not remove the threat and the government needed to publicly support others to follow suit.

"These companies are supporting a lasting solution for Maui dolphins and demonstrating leadership," WWF-New Zealand head of campaigns Peter Hardstaff said.

Opposition parties have come out in support of the two companies but criticised the government for not doing more.

Labour's Nanaia Mahuta says the government needs to do its bit and see the advantages of collaboration, while the Green Party's Eugenie Sage said the government had been shamed by Sandford and Moana taking steps that they weren't prepared to take.

But Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has defended the government, saying they had been discussing these options with the industry for the last 18 months.

"Over the next few years we're also rolling out the Integrated Electronic Monitoring and Reporting System, which includes cameras, geospatial monitoring and electronic reporting on every commercial fishing vessel," Mr Guy said.

"The move by these fishing companies to adopt this technology early is a big vote of confidence."

In October, researchers found the remaining population of Maui dolphins had increased to between 57 and 75 adults.

Greenpeace New Zealand executive director Russel Norman said the move by the companies was a "small step in the right direction".

But he said it also reflected a lack of government action.

"Sanford and Moana New Zealand are now going further than the New Zealand government in recognising the extent of Maui habitat," he said.

"This small step isn't going to make a real difference unless the rest of the industry follows and it goes further."

Sanford chief Volker Kuntzsch said the companies would be working with fishers who would face higher costs over the move

"We're also looking to the government to support this plan by finding ways to assist fishers to transition to dolphin-safe fishing methods," he said.

"We all have a role to play in protecting these mammals. Our livelihoods depend on what's out there in the oceans, and that does not only mean on the species we catch."

The companies are also putting up $500,000 to get video monitoring on all vessels.

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