New Zealand Fisheries is in dispute over claims that commercial catches of snapper can be increased without posing a risk to endangered Māui dolphins.
The snapper quota off the west coast of the North Island has increased by 23% to 1,600 tonnes per year, and the amount that can be harvested for customary and recreational purposes has also jumped.
Marine biologist Liz Slooten said this increases the chances of Māui dolphins ending up as bycatch, and coincides with a survey showing their population has dropped by 14% to just 54 individuals.
“It’s really surprising that new information on Māui’s dolphin is now reduced to 54, that this is closely followed by this decision to increase the snapper quota – it just doesn’t make sense.”
She said observer coverage is scarce on boats in the area, so there’s no way to tell how many dolphins end up as bycatch.
“We just don’t have the data to tell and there is no mention that I can see any recent new information that Māui dolphins have declined again, there is a lot of information that has been missed. in this document.”
The fishery – a division of the Ministry of Primary Industries – has expressed satisfaction with the protections put in place for Māui dolphins.
Fisheries NZ said in a report that was leaked that despite the decline in Māui dolphin numbers, no additional protection was needed.
He said this was because “current fishing measures effectively restrict the estimated level of fishing-related mortality to zero”.