83% of Kiwis Support Trawl and Set Net Ban to Protect New Zealand Dolphins

Posted on 16 April 2008   |  
A WWF/Colmar Brunton survey released today shows 83% of New Zealanders support banning set nets and trawl nets to protect Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins.

Both dolphin species are found only in New Zealand coastal waters. Maui’s dolphins, with a population of just 111, are classified as ‘critically endangered’, which means they face an extremely high likelihood of extinction. Hector’s dolphins are ‘endangered’, which means they face a very high risk of extinction.

WWF-New Zealand Executive Director, Chris Howe, says the findings – that more than four out of five people support banning set nets and trawl nets in areas the dolphins live – is a strong message for the government.

‘In the next few weeks, the Ministers of Fisheries and Conservation are expected to release their decision on how threats to Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins will be managed.

‘The government’s own research has shown that fishing with set nets and trawl nets pose the greatest threat to the dolphins. The most recently released findings from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) in March confirmed what WWF has been saying for years – over 100 Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins are killed in set nets each year, and continuing to fish this way will lead to their further decline.”

‘We’ve been pushing the government for adequate protection for these dolphins for the past four years, and the Colmar Brunton opinion research shows that the vast majority of New Zealanders agree that action is needed before it’s too late.’ People understand that some fishers’ livelihoods may be affected, but they still want nets banned, Howe says.

The research shows 7% think fishing with set nets and trawl nets should continue and 10% have no opinion.

The survey also reflects the strength of people’s feelings about protecting the dolphins, he says. Of the 7% who support continued use of nets in places the dolphins live, just 29% rate this as ‘very’ or ‘quite’ important to them. In stark contrast, 86% of those who want nets banned to protect the dolphins say it’s ‘very’ or ‘quite’ important.

‘It’s clear people feel strongly about New Zealand’s responsibility to protect marine mammals that are found only in our waters,’ Howe says. ‘Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins are our marine taonga, and protecting them for future generations is important to our national identity.”

WWF-New Zealand is calling for a total ban on set nets, and for trawling to be banned in the shallow waters where the dolphins live. Other methods of fishing that don’t kill dolphins or harm other marine life are available to fishers, Howe says. ‘The positive and effective work being done by New Zealand fishers to reduce seabird by-catch shows what the industry can achieve when it is motivated.’

The government’s latest deadline for releasing their decision on managing the threats to Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins is early May.

The survey results are part of a Colmar Brunton omnibus questionnaire in March 2008, and are based on telephone interviews with 500 randomly sampled New Zealanders aged 15 and older. The data was post-weighted to accurately reflect New Zealand’s population in terms of household size, area, age and gender. The research is available in the publications section of this website.


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