22 Feb 2018

MPI failed to notice inaccurate increase in dolphin deaths

6:57 pm on 22 February 2018

The Ministry for Primary Industries is being accused of falling asleep at the wheel for failing to notice a twenty fold increase in the number of dolphins caught by fishers last year compared to the year before.

File photo of fishing vessels.

File photo of fishing vessels. Photo: 123RF

Forest and Bird picked up on the sudden spike of 39 dolphin deaths in 2017 but was subsequently told it was in fact a coding error by a fisher who incorrectly recorded his bycatch of birds as dolphins.

The group's spokesperson, Geoff Keey, said while it was glad there had not been a sudden increase in dolphin deaths, it was disturbed the fact was officially recorded without the fisher or MPI noticing that anything was out of the ordinary.

The Ministry for Primary Industries admitted it should have investigated the matter.

"We are ensuring that processes are in place so that incidents like this are investigated promptly. In the longer-term integrated electronic reporting will provide more up-to-date information that can be acted on more quickly", said a spokesperson.

Forest and Bird's Geoff Keey noted most fishing boats did not have an independent observer on board to pick up on mistakes such as this and the situation could have been avoided if cameras were installed on vessels.

The Minister for Fisheries, Stuart Nash was considering whether to proceed with cameras.

He has already stated the policy, which was introduced by the previous government, could be scrapped.

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