Plan to protect Maui dolphin slammed by environmentalists, academics

Environmentalists claim that the Government's new measures to protect the Maui dolphin are pointless.

Cameras are to be placed on up to 28 fishing boats operating in a Maui dolphin habitat off the west coast of the North Island by November.

But environmentalists and academics say it will do nothing to protect the final 63 members of the critically endangered species.

The announcement comes as Newshub has obtained documents which suggest illegal dumping of fish is still occurring on the East Coast.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says this move is part of a wider plan to protect New Zealand's fishing stocks.

"This is the next step in a longer term plan to strengthen our fisheries management system," Ardern told Newshub.

The International Whaling Commission has repeatedly said fishing should be banned in Maui habitat and Professor Liz Slooten says the cameras will only provide a research tool.

"By all means keep doing more research, but the first step you need to take is to put in place better protection," Slooten told Newshub.

"This is really a major back down by the Government over what they said they would do, which is put cameras across the whole fleet," Forest and Bird Oceans Advocate Anton Van Helden told Newshub.

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The cameras plan only involves a handful of vessels, but the Government has indicated more could follow, without giving any sort of timeline.

"What we are doing is going out to consultation soon with what a staged roll out will look like," the Minister of Fisheries, Stuart Nash, said.

"But we are very clear, this is the beginning..." Ardern added.

Sanford Skipper Bert Aitken doesn't fish in the Maui area, but wasn't fussed about having cameras during a recent trial.

"They never worried me, bugged me at all. We just got on with it and did what we did."

But it's clear he and Sanford are the exception.

Letters to the Minister obtained by Newshub show most of the industry is staunchly opposed to electronic monitoring, saying the benefits will be "non-existent or exaggerated".

However, one letter indicated why perhaps cameras are needed.

"I'm an ex-commercial fisherman and can vouch for the fact that high-grading and dumping occurs regularly, seen it often in the Hauraki Gulf and around the Coromandel Peninsula," it read.

"Is high-grading and dumping still occurring out here in the east coast? I would not hope so. There are rumours like that every now and then," Sanford CEO Volker Kuntzsch told Newshub.

A tender process will decide who will provide the camera technology, but it won't be the much-criticised, industry-owed Trident Systems. They told Newshub they won't be putting in a bid.