Maui’s dolphins are the rarest marine dolphin on earth. The species has experienced a dramatic decline and range contraction since the1970s. With more than ninety percent of their kind already lost, they have been reduced to a small, remnant population of some 55 individuals off the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. This equates to less than 20 breeding females. Extinction is imminent.
Fishing, specifically with gill and trawl nets, is the main cause of mortality for Maui’s dolphins. It is therefore the prime factor obstructing their recovery.
In this severely depleted state, Maui’s dolphins can only cope with the death of one individual every 10 years. However, at least two Maui’s dolphin died between October 2011 and February 2012. More fatalities are likely but have gone unreported.
Swift, decisive and uncompromising action is required to prevent any further deaths if Maui’s dolphins are to return from the very brink of extinction. Trawling and the use of gillnets must be banned throughout their range. Every day they are exposed to gill and trawl nets carries a risk we simply can’t afford.
The government is proposing to extend the existing protected area, but will do so only if there is strong public support.
By signing this petition you are making a formal submission to the NZ Minister of Primary Industries as part of his public consultation on this matter.
For more information check out www.hectorsdolphins.com.
Thank you for your support for the last surviving Maui’s dolphins!
- Minister for Primary Industries, New Zealand
Hon. David Carter
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to comment on the Interim Set Net Measures to manage the risk of Maui's dolphin mortality.
Maui’s dolphins have experienced a dramatic decline and range contraction since the1970s. With more than ninety percent of their kind already lost, they have been reduced to a small, remnant population of some 55 individuals off the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island and face imminent extinction.
The observed population crash coincides with the introduction of nylon filament fishing nets in New Zealand. Since then more than 25 years of research, as well as the government’s Draft Threat Management Plan, have identified fishing, specifically with gill and trawl nets, as the main cause of mortality for Maui’s dolphins. It is therefore the prime factor obstructing Maui’s dolphin recovery.
Maui’s dolphins number just 55 individuals older than one year, down from their previous estimate of 111 in 2005. This number equates to less than 20 females capable of reproduction.
The government’s new Maui’s dolphin abundance estimate report suggests an annual population decline of some three percent. This means that even more Maui’s dolphins will have died since the research was carried out in 2010/11.
In their severely depleted state, the sustainable number of dolphin deaths is in the order of one individual every 10 years. However, we know of at least two Maui’s dolphin fatalities in the past six months. As most deaths go unreported and unrecognized, these incidences provide only a glimpse of the true number of fatalities.
Faced with this most precarious situation, I feel strongly that this public consultation itself is the cause of further unnecessary delays. Implementing immediate remedial emergency measures, provided for under the Fisheries Act, would have been a far more fitting course of action.
To protect such a tiny population, it is imperative to act immediately and to remove all avoidable human impacts. Fishing can continue in the area, using selective, sustainable fishing methods that do not endanger dolphins (including fish traps and hook and line methods).
Swift, decisive and uncompromising action is required to prevent any further fatalities amongst the last individuals so they have a chance of returning from the very brink of extinction. Every day the animals are exposed to gill and trawl nets carries a risk we simply can’t afford. If ever there was a time to act, it is now.
I therefore urge you to show the leadership that is required to save this species not only by extending the current protected area to south to Hawera (as proposed in the discussion paper released on 14 March 2012), but to prohibiting trawling and the use of gillnets throughout the animals’ range, including harbours, out to a depth of 100 metres. To facilitate genetic replenishing of Maui’s dolphins, the Tasman and Golden Bays should also be included as part of these restrictions.
The impending extinction of Maui’s dolphins is of global concern. It is also avoidable if your government acts now in line with your obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity's Strategic Plan for 2011-2020. Failure to do so will forever tarnish New Zealand’s reputation as an environmentally responsible nation in the eyes of the world.
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