Pahu trawl risk

Update by Grant Meikle (Campaign Leader)

Easter Friday (19th April) was a maintenance day for Holden tow vehicle ‘Anti Rodeo’ and vessel Loki and time to reflect on the past five days which had seen our volunteer crew patrol from Waikuku beach north of Christchurch to Long Point in Southern Fiordland. A distance by road of 700km.

Canterbury Patrol

We launched Loki at Sumner boat ramp on Saturday 13th April and headed south past Lyttleton Harbour. We spotted a vessel on the horizon and as we got closer we found a pod of approximately fifty Pahu (Hector’s dolphins) and many seabirds (including Albatross) following a trawl vessel. The Pahu were feeding on the small fish that escape from the trawl net in a feeding frenzy; in NZ this is commonly known as a “boil up”.

There were seven Pahu reported caught in trawl fisheries in this area since December 2018. The most concerning fact is only around 2% of Hector’s caught in fishing nets are reported with around 150 killed every year as bycatch.

We stayed behind and observed the trawler, as the trawler lifted the net Pahu swam around catching any fish that were escaping. It appeared that a dolphin caught its fin on the side of the net fin and frantically flicked its tail to release itself. It was a very distressing sight for the crew and a pure miracle Pahu were not caught.

We then continued north to Waikuku beach in Pegasus Bay where on two separate occasions we sighted individual Pahu well offshore.

Te Waewae and South East Fiordland

On Thursday 19th April we launched Loki from Cosy Nook in Foveaux Strait and headed west to Long Point. Long Point is on the South Eastern side of Fiordland National Park, this has zero protection for Pahu in this area.

We then continued around to Port Craig in Te Waewae Bay where we were surprised not be met by our usual welcoming committee of around twelve Pahu who reside in this area. We only sighted one hundred of the approximate two hundred Pahu in Te Waewae. From our observations they appear to migrate out to deeper water over the winter months. Excitingly we sighted eight calves which is extremely encouraging.

As we returned to Cosy Nook we were ecstatic to see a very large pod of Southern Bottlenose dolphins. Sea Shepherd crew member and Scientific Advisor Gemma McGrath:

“…….this pod of Bottlenose Dolphins are the southernmost distribution of Bottlenose dolphins in the world and very little is known about them”.

Sea Shepherd New Zealand and Operation Pahu are operated solely by volunteers and these patrols come at a cost. We had a blowout on our trailer tyre while travelling back from Cosy Nook, and only because of your continuous generous support can we continue our work.

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