A dolphin killed after being caught in a set net shows the protections in place are inadequate, marine biologists say.
The young male Hector’s dolphin was found dead in Banks Peninsula’s Akaroa Harbour on Monday and was reported to the Department of Conservation.
University of Otago marine biologists Professor Steve Dawson and Professor Elisabeth Slooten happened to be in Akaroa for Easter and were able to examine the dead dolphin.
The pair have studied Hector’s dolphins for more than three decades and have dissected over 130 dolphins.
The 123-centimetre-long male was probably four or five years old and was in good condition, Dawson said. Its age was estimated from its size and the lack of wear and tear on its teeth.
It was obvious the animal had died in a set net, Dawson said.
“There were clear indented lines across the dolphin’s snout, multiple sharp cuts in the flippers and tail flukes, and a fresh nick out of its dorsal fin.”
“There’s no doubt about how this dolphin died,” he said.
Though Banks Peninsula is classed as a Marine Mammal Sanctuary, it is legal to set nets for flatfish in the inner parts of Akaroa Harbour from April 1 to September 30. But even in the depths of winter dolphins still frequent the area, Dawson said.
“This capture shows that these set nets pose a very real risk. It just should not be permitted.” “It’s ridiculous to have a marine reserve at one end of the harbour, a very active and lucrative tourist industry based on the dolphins, and yet allow use of fishing methods that kill those same dolphins.”