Campaign started to extend restrictions

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Kakanui surfer and swimmer Dave Robertson is so concerned about the plight of the Hector’s dolphin he has started a campaign.

The Government has proposed restrictions to set-netting and trawling around much of New Zealand to save Maui and Hector’s dolphins, but none are planned for Otago.

The only area for Southland is at Te Waewae Bay, in Western Southland.

There are colonies of Hector’s dolphins between Dunedin and Oamaru and in the Catlins and Mr Robertson believes they are “on the verge of extinction”, and “in decline” here as well as in other parts of the country.

He is urging North Otago people to make submissions to the Government on its proposals before the deadline of August 4.

On Wednesday he had a large batch of information sheets printed to publicise the cause. He is distributing them throughout the district and arranging to talk to the Waitaki District Council and senior secondary school pupils.

The sheets include advice on how to make submissions and where to find further information.

Mr Robertson has already discussed the matter with Professor Steve Dawson of the University of Otago Department of Marine Science.

His research includes conservation biology of marine mammals, especially Hector’s dolphin, and incidental catch of marine mammals in fisheries.

Prof Dawson has said the Government proposals would leave gaps in dolphin protection in places where there were small populations forming bridges between larger ones. That would lead to depletion of smaller groups, with increased fragmentation and extinction of local populations.

Prof Dawson is a trustee of the New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust. Mr Robertson said its website explained the relevant issues and was essential reading.

It said Maui and Hector’s dolphins were rarer than kiwis and in urgent need of conservation.

“We know that removing fishing nets from their habitat makes a huge difference.

“Extending protection to all waters up to 100m deep would allow Hector’s and Maui dolphins to recover.”

Mr Robertson’s campaign is being carried out under the name North Otago Dolphin Protection. He said if the Government did not amend its fishing restrictions to better safeguard the dolphins, he would make his concerns known internationally.