Gillnet pingers won’t help Maui’s dolphins

Published: Fri 7 Sep 2012 10:25 AM
Gillnet pingers won’t help Maui’s dolphins
Taranaki fisherman Ian McDougall has misspent his money buying pingers in the hope of keeping Maui’s dolphins out of his nets, according to dolphin expert Associate Professor Stephen Dawson, from Otago University.
“He would have been much better to spend his money changing to fishing gear that doesn’t catch dolphins” Prof Dawson said.
Dawson heads up a team of international experts who have just completed a world-wide review of the effects of pingers on dolphins and porpoises - soon to published in the scientific journal “Endangered Species Research”.
Research shows that pingers, which emit sounds intended to warn dolphins about nets, don’t work for Hector’s dolphins. Some species, including Harbour porpoises, found in Europe and the US, avoid pingers from several hundred metres away.
Unfortunately for Mr McDougall, experiments with Hector’s dolphins show that they do not avoid pingers at all. “Plots of where dolphins surface show no difference whether pingers are on or off. In fact, if you remove the labels, you can’t tell which is which” Prof Dawson said.
“Also, pingers have been used in South Island gillnets which have killed Hector’s dolphins. It’s simply fanciful to imagine that pingers can solve the problem. The best solution is to get rid of the nets.”
“Let’s remember that Maui’s dolphins are now so rare that catching just one represents a substantial step towards their extinction.”

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