Cameras on fishing boats
On-board cameras will be mandated on commercial fishing vessels at greatest risk of encountering rare Māui dolphins, the Government has announced.
Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash said the Budget has set aside $17.1 million over four years for purchase, installation and maintenance of the cameras, as well as the costs of storage, review and analysis of the footage.
Footage would be encrypted to protect privacy, the NZ Herald reported.
The changes will take effect on November 1 and affect up to 28 vessels operating in the main Maui dolphin habitat between Northland and Taranaki.
There are over 1000 commercial fishing boats in New Zealand waters, Stuff reported, but not all operate in this area. Other vessels that work in Māui dolphin habitats use methods like long-lines, purse seine nets and potting that pose a lower risk and would be unaffected by the new rules at this stage, Minister Nash said.
However this roll-out "allows time to refine systems and processes before a wider camera programme is considered across more of the commercial fleet", Nash said.
University of Otago marine scientist Professor Stephen Dawson said mandating cameras on boats that encroach on Māui dolphin habitats would not reduce the risk to their critically endangered population.
“The action that is needed is to get fishing methods that kill dolphins (ie. gillnetting and trawling) out of Māui dolphin habitat."
It was already well-established that gillnetting and trawling posed serious threats to these dolphins and others worldwide, he said.
The SMC gathered expert reaction on the announcement.
"There are around 60 of these dolphins left – this problem is too urgent to delay protection while doing more research."
University of Auckland conservation biologist, Associate Professor Rochelle Constantine, said it was very difficult to determine the distribution and human threats facing the rare dolphins, but the cameras were a "huge step forward".
The announcement comes ahead of the release of a review of the Hector's and Māui Dolphin Threat Management Plan which will go out for public consultation shortly.