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Dolphin survival is Govt's early Xmas present

26 August 2005

Dolphin survival is Govt's early Xmas present

The Government's announced intention to protect the critically endangered Maui and Hectors Dolphins is an early Christmas present for marine conservation, Green Party Associate Environment Spokesperson Metiria Turei says.

Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope has today said that the Ministry of Fisheries and the Department of Conservation will have a Threat Management Plan for the dolphins ready by Christmas.

"The Greens are very pleased that Labour is taking the threat from fishing to these precious and vulnerable species seriously," Mrs Turei says.

"Following on from Mr Benson-Pope's launch a couple of days ago of the first Government strategy to address the effects of fishing on our all endangered species, we have to acknowledge that this Government is making some progress on marine conservation.

"This is timely, as it is quite likely that a National-led Government would put about as much priority on protecting our undersea forest ecologies as they do for those on land - not much. A Green-Labour Government is the best guarantee that marine conservation will continue to move forward.

"For instance, it is not just fishing and related activities that threaten these dolphins. New activities such as seabed prospecting and mining are also a threat, as we're seeing with permits having been granted for iron sand prospecting off the North Island and gold prospecting off the South Island.

"I have recently been campaigning in coastal communities on the potential threats that seabed prospecting and mining may have on the dolphins covered by this newly proposed plan and other marine mammals.

"The maximum death rate from human impact that the Maui dolphin population can sustain is one death every six years. Therefore the plan must include a mandatory zero, or near zero, by-catch limit for the dolphins, the closure of the fisheries when the by-catch limit is reached and an absolute prohibition on seabed mining within the dolphin habitats.

"The Greens are especially concerned that Seafields Ltd have a permit to use seismic testing to prospect for gold and mineral on the seabed. There is international research that links seismic testing with strandings of whales and other marine mammals.

"If we are to truly protect these dolphins, all fishing and extractive technologies must pass a sustainability impact test before they are used in their habitats. Fishing and other activities can proceed, but only as long as they will not harm the dolphins.

"The Greens also want to see more marine mammal sanctuaries, an extension of the existing protection area in Banks Peninsula and a much higher level of protection for the Maui Dolphin off the North Island."

ENDS

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