Appeal to Environmental Canterbury to better protect Hector’s dolphins
Robinson gave a legal opinion to Environmental Canterbury last week, disputing his lack of action in protecting dolphins.
It calls for better protection of dolphins against trawl and gillnet fishing. Under the Fisheries Act, trawlers can operate within two nautical miles of shore.
Robinson is hoping ECan will act urgently, either by banning gillnetting and trawling in Hector’s dolphin habitat, or by banning both fishing activities within 12 nautical miles of shore.
Robinson hired prominent resource management law attorney James Gardner-Hopkins after growing frustrated by ECan’s failure to meet its obligations to protect dolphins.
During last year’s Covid-19 lockdown, Robinson regularly monitored fishing activity around Banks Peninsula through online apps.
“While we were locked in our homes, fishing continued as usual, functioning as an essential service,” she said.
Robinson then discovered, through an Official Information Act request, a Hector’s dolphin had been captured by a fishing boat in March.
The fishermen at the time reported it to the Department of Conservation, who then informed Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage.
However, the public was not made aware of the accidental capture of dolphins until five months later.
Robinson said: “Hector is still taken. It continues. We know it continues.”
Robinson believes there is a need to change the way fishing is permitted in areas where there are also large populations of Hector’s dolphins.
“The problem is that the Banks Peninsula Marine Sanctuary is not doing its job,” said Robinson.
“This is just a sanctuary in terms of protecting dolphins from seismic surveys and mining.
“Sanctuary is a word that looks good on paper, but it does not play its role in relation to the public’s expectations for conservation.”
In the letter, Gardner-Hopkins acknowledges that ECan has the power to impose controls on fishing through its coastal regional environmental plan to protect Hector’s dolphins.
“ECan can make protective changes overnight. If they play by the rules, it will take too long. We need urgent action on this,” said Robinson.
Robinson has already called the Lyttelton Port Company on its plans to build cruise docks.
Until her first sighting of Hector’s dolphins in 2013, she was unaware that New Zealand had an endemic dolphin species.
Since then, she has worked “tirelessly” to defend their protection.