New Zealand shamed over Maui’s inaction

The International Whaling Commission is asking the New Zealand government to immediately ban set net and trawl fishing in all areas where Maui’s dolphins are found. 

Maui's dolphin. Photo: Nic Toki

Maui's dolphin. Photo: Nic Toki

“This vindicates what Forest & Bird and several other environmental NGOs have been saying for several years,” Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell says. 

The report says: “The Committee therefore recommends that rather than seeking further scientific evidence, the highest priority should be given to immediate management actions that will lead to the elimination of bycatch of Maui’s dolphins. This includes full closures of any fisheries within the range of Maui’s dolphins that are known to pose a risk of bycatch of small cetaceans.”

“The government said we could expect a revised Threat Management Plan by last Christmas. A year has now passed since it made that promise. 

“Meanwhile, fishing boats are still laying set nets in areas where the science tell us that Maui’s dolphins are likely to get caught in those nets and drown – far beyond the borders of the areas where set netting is currently banned.  

“The irony is that right now, the government’s lawyers are arguing at the International Criminal Court that Japan’s whaling is illegal. This is the right thing to be doing. But it is clear that this government will only take action on protecting a species, as long as no one at home will have to modify their operations in any way,” Kevin Hackwell says.

There are an estimated 55 adult Maui’s dolphins. Their population has dropped by an estimated 90 per cent since set netting was introduced in the early 1970s. Their range has also diminished during the same period. Maui’s used to be found from Northland to Wellington and up to Hawke’s Bay. 

“Only one other country in the world – China -has let a dolphin species disappear. No Yangtze River dolphins, or baiji, have been seen since 2007. 

“New Zealand does not want to join China on this. We must not let Maui’s dolphins become extinct,” says Kevin Hackwell.

“The idea that New Zealand’s environmental priorities are on a par with China’s will go down very badly with most Kiwis,” says Kevin Hackwell.  

“We are not talking about reducing the quota that west coast North Island fishermen can catch. The situation demands that they change their methods, which are killing these dolphins,” says Kevin Hackwell.