Featured Image Credit: Getty Images
By Laura O’Brien
Hector’s dolphins are one of the smallest species of dolphin in the world, and they only live in the waters off the coast of New Zealand. Their population has dwindled to about seven thousand, leaving them endangered. Due to a multitude of fatal entanglements, and in response to the recent deaths of five Hector’s dolphins, the New Zealand government is investigating the use of set nets. Depending on the results of the investigation, New Zealand may move away from the use of set nets.
The five dolphins whose deaths catalyzed the investigation were captured and drowned in a single set net in February of this year. Entanglements are a major threat to all marine mammals, including Hector’s dolphins. A staggering one hundred and ten to one hundred and fifty Hector’s dolphins are estimated to be caught in nets each year. New Zealand’s Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage, addressed the threat that set nets pose to dolphins and other sea life. “The needless death of five dolphins in one set net underlines the ongoing problem of set net use in places where highly endangered species like Hector’s and Maui dolphins live and the indiscriminate nature of set nets as a fishing method.”
In addition to the review of set nets, the New Zealand government is working on a new and improved Threat Management Plan for Hector’s dolphins. Hopefully, New Zealand’s ongoing research will open the door for effective policy changes that protect marine life, especially Hector’s dolphins.