The capture of 44 dolphins in fishing nets in the Bay of Plenty in three separate incidents in the past year is a freak occurrence, say commercial fishers.
Figures obtained by Forest and Bird show of the 53 dolphins caught in nets in the region in the last seven years, 44 were caught in the last year alone.
The head of Fishers Inshore New Zealand, Dr Jeremy Helson, said the findings were "very unusual".
"In the previous six years, there were fewer than two captures per year. No fisher ever wants to hurt a dolphin and all skippers do everything they can to avoid that," he said.
When a Sanford vessel accidentally snared a pod of dolphins in March, the skipper released the catch of 30 tonnes of Jack Mackerel in order to save the mammals, he said.
"Dolphin captures are very rare overall and the industry does whatever it can to mitigate capture and mortality, however it is never going to be a zero risk environment."