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Maui’s dolphins live only in New Zealand and are the smallest and rarest marine dolphin species on earth. Fishing with gill nets and trawling has driven them to the very edge of extinction. There are now just around 50 Maui’s dolphins left, down from an estimated 1,800 forty years ago. Because there are so few individuals left, the species can only cope with a single fatality as a result of human activities every 10-23 years. Yet these fishing methods kill an estimated five Maui's dolphins each year. The last survivors need to be protected now before it’s too late and here is your chance to help make that happen.

The world’s leading independent scientists, including those from the International Whaling Commission, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Society for Marine Mammalogy agree that harmful fishing methods must be banned across the dolphins’ range if the species is to have any chance of bouncing back. But the New Zealand government is ignoring these urgent recommendations. Instead, the government’s proposed plans provide a piecemeal approach to their protection, which is out of step with what is required to facilitate recovery. But Maui’s dolphins can’t hang on much longer. They need full protection, and they need it now.

Please join us to let New Zealand know that the world cares and won’t accept their wilful extinction!

You can view the text of the petition below.

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Thank you for your support for these animals who are in so much trouble. This is our last chance to save them!

Letter to
Minister of Conservation, New Zealand Hon. Maggie Barry
Dear Minister,

With less than 55 individuals, Maui's dolphins are the world's rarest marine dolphin species. To ensure the survival of such a small and declining population a zero tolerance approach to any fishing-related mortality and the strict avoidance of other threats is essential.

Recent independent expert opinion has again confirmed that gill netting and trawling poses by far the greatest threat to the survival of Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins.

You acknowledge that Maui’s dolphins can sustain only a single human induced mortality every 10-23 years. You also acknowledge that there have been at least three confirmed and two likely Maui’s dolphin fatalities as a result of gillnetting alone since 2000 – more than the sustainable limit for 50-115 years for all sources of human induced mortality combined.

In the Question and Answer section of a recent consultation document, you refer to the Risk Assessment of Threats to Maui’s dolphins, which was carried out for your Department and the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) to inform their decisions relating to Maui’s dolphin protection. This risk assessment estimates that a total of five Maui’s dolphins die in fishing nets each year: 2.33-2.48 per year in commercial gillnets, 0.88-0.97 per year in recreational and customary gillnets, and 1.13-1.21 per year in commercial trawl nets. Trawling alone therefore extensively exceeds the sustainable bycatch limit for Maui’s dolphins . Yet neither MPI’s consultation on the outstanding decision on fisheries closures around Taranaki, nor the most recent consultation include comprehensive restrictions related to trawling. Unless the last Maui’s dolphins are fully protected against all harmful nets, extinction remains the most likely outcome.

Only recently, the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC SC) stated that the human-caused death of even one individual would increase the extinction risk for Maui’s dolphins. The IWC SC recommended that the “highest priority should be given to immediate management actions that will lead to the elimination of bycatch of Maui’s dolphins”. The Committee specified that this should include “full closures of any fisheries” within Maui’s dolphin range“ that are known to pose a risk of bycatch of small cetaceans”, including trawling.

The consultation documents currently under review do not cover the range of management options necessary to protect Maui’s dolphins against further decline and fail to provide a scientific rationale for the chosen options. In doing so, your Government ignores the best available scientific advice. Furthermore, none of the management options put forward to date provide any qualitative or quantitative assessments of the effectiveness and anticipated conservation outcomes associated with these measures.

In line with urgent IUCN recommendations, we urge the New Zealand Government to afford Maui’s dolphins immediate and full protection against gill netting and trawling throughout their habitat to avert their extinction. This means a ban of these fishing methods and effective management of all other threats in waters up to a depth of 100 meters, including harbours.

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