Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Back in 1988, the government created new Zealand's first marine sanctuary around Banks Peninsula in order to protect the endangered Hector's Dolphin. In 2008, they extended it. But apparently at least one of our major fishing companies is refusing to accept this, and is plundering the sanctuary under cover of darkness:

Conservation group Earthrace said it saw many boats from a well-known fishing company in the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary during surveillance it carried out earlier this year.

The sanctuary is home to the endangered Hector's dolphin.

The surveillance involved observations from a plane, motor boats, kayaks and hilltops around the peninsula over a 10-day period.

Earthrace founder Pete Bethune said fishing boats steered clear of the sanctuary during the day but at night moved in and began gill netting and trawling, techniques known to trap and kill dolphins.

The Ministry of Primary Industries is investigating, and hopefully they'll find enough evidence to prosecute. OTOH, the penalties for violating the sanctuary are ridiculously low - a $10,000 or $30,000 fine - and so are unlikely to provide any real deterrant or punishment for offenders. Contrast this with the penalties available for violating a marine reserve: a $250,000 fine, imprisonment, and forfeiture of fishing vessels on conviction. Isn't it time we protected our marine mammal sanctuaries to the same extent?