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Art of Survival for Maui’s dolphin

Art of Survival for Maui’s dolphin

Wellington, 12 November 2012 – Fifty-five original artworks, representing the estimated number of adult Maui’s dolphins left alive, were presented to key MPs today to highlight that the future of the dolphin, which faces extinction, is in their hands.

Greenpeace is calling for an immediate and extended ban on gillnets, set nets and trawling – the main threats to Maui’s dolphin – throughout its habitat along of the west coast of the North Island from Maunganui Bluff (north of Dargaville) to Whanganui, including harbours and extending to the 100 meter depth contour.

The edition of 55 handmade woodblock prints were produced by Wellington-based artist Sheyne Tuffery. They feature Maui’s dolphin and a tuatara – another New Zealand species to have faced extinction and now considered a national treasure. (3)

“The 55 prints represent the alarmingly small Maui’s dolphin population. As there are more MPs than adult Maui’s dolphins we aren’t able to give a print to every politician,” says Greenpeace New Zealand Oceans Campaigner Karli Thomas.

Greenpeace invited representatives of all the political parties including Prime Minister John Key and 41 National MPs to today’s art presentation. Only 4 MPs attended the formal event. The remaining 51 prints were delivered by Greenpeace and the artist to the Beehive.
Thomas says the symbolism of the artworks will depend on the Government’s response to the Maui’s dolphin crisis.

“If MPs take urgent action to protect Maui’s dolphin they will be able hang these beautiful prints in their offices with pride. It will be the art of survival. On the other hand, if they’re too slow or if the measures they agree are too weak, they’ll have a constant reminder of their failure.”

Maui’s dolphin, the world’s smallest and most endangered marine dolphin, is found only in New Zealand waters. The latest population estimate indicates 55 adult Maui’s dolphins remain. (1)

Two international expert bodies, the International Whaling Commission and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, have called on New Zealand to take immediate action to protect the critically endangered species. (2)

“The Government’s response has been shamefully inadequate. New Zealand is running a very real risk of becoming the first country to oversee the extinction of a marine dolphin from human causes,” says Thomas.

“That would be a huge blow to New Zealand’s strong record for wildlife conservation, and to our international reputation.”

Submissions on the Government’s plans to handle the threats to Maui’s dolphins closed yesterday. More than 17,600 Greenpeace supporters alone made submissions.


Notes to Editor

1) http://www.doc.govt.nz/conservation/native-animals/marine-mammals/dolphins/mauis-dolphin/docs-work/mauis-dolphin-abundance-estimate/

2) In 2012 the International Whaling Commission's scientific committee noted that bycatch in gillnet and trawl fisheries was the most serious threat to Maui’s dolphins, and recommended “the immediate implementation of the proposal by the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries to extend the North Island protected area to approximately 80 km south of the latest dolphin bycatch site”, and that the protected areas should extend “offshore to the 100m depth contour, including the harbours, for gillnet and trawl fisheries. This would protect part of an area with high gillnet and trawl fishing effort between the North and South Islands.” http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jul2012/2012-07-10-01.html

In September 2012 the World Conservation Congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature passed an almost unanimous motion urging New Zealand and Mexico to urgently protect Maui’s dolphin and vaquita (a porpoise in Mexico facing a similar threat of extinction). There were 576 country and NGO votes in favour of the motion, and two votes against it. Each country member has two votes, and the two "no" votes belonged to New Zealand. Motion available online: portals.iucn.org/docs/2012congress/motions/en/M-035-2012-EN.pdf

3) Artist statement by Sheyne Tuffery. “My work has always championed the forgotten icons/ species of New Zealand Aotearoa. The composition I created shows our longest living resident, the Tuatara, witnessing the Maui’s dolphin decline, and broadcasts an S.O.S signal to anyone that will listen. We do not want to lose another endemic species especially while the world watches us do it.”

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