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New Approach Vital to Save Maui’s Dolphins

Fishing Industry Says New Approach Vital to Save Maui’s Dolphins

Fisheries Inshore New Zealand says that preservation of Maui's dolphins is a critical priority for New Zealand.

The Chief Executive of Fisheries Inshore New Zealand, Laws Lawson, says the industry is on the same page as environmental groups on this. And his group shares concerns that Government is not doing the right things to save them.

Laws Lawson says the agenda to save Maui’s dolphins from extinction has to go beyond fishing regulations or the last of the Maui’s dolphins will disappear for ever.

“I agree with environmental groups that Maui’s conservation should be based on good science and information,” he says.

“For instance, we need proper research to tell us if any Maui’s dolphins move outside what has been their confirmed and known range for the past 20 years, that is, between Bayley’s Beach in the north, and Raglan in the south.”

Laws Lawson says all data indicates that the Maui’s range is much smaller than either the eNGOs or the government believes.

“There’s no DNA evidence that they ever leave their known range. Over the past year, extensive government efforts off Taranaki failed to find any Maui’s or their identical looking cousins the South Island Hector’s,” he says.

“Science has now shown that no one – not even the experts – can distinguish between a Maui or a Hector’s dolphin – they look the same and can only be properly distinguished through DNA testing” he says. “This calls into question how a Minister can decide that the sighting of a Hector’s type dolphin in a location beyond the normal range of the Maui dolphins by a member of the public means that it was a Maui dolphin.”

“We’re inviting a conversation with German conservation group NABU on exactly what research is needed. We invite them to come and knock on our door,” Laws Lawson says.

“Issues that Fisheries Inshore would like to discuss include how to use the knowledge and understanding we already have on Maui to ensure we’re all making good decisions. We want robust and validated science. What weight we should place on historic public sightings of Hector’s type dolphins is important. Equally though, we need to focus the money we do have for research on gaining better information on where the dolphins are, what their health is and how they can best be assisted to recover over time rather than spending money just observing areas where they aren’t,” Laws Lawson says.

“Fisheries Inshore wants to find ways to ensure these dolphins survive. DOC estimates that there are 55 Maui dolphins. Let’s find every single one of them and work out the best and most efficient way to record and assist these animals back into a sustainable population base.”

“Though we know a huge amount about some aspects of Maui dolphins, there are
important gaps in our knowledge, such as their susceptibility to diseases and how they get them. We have no idea of the effect of that on their reproductive metabolism. A lot is known about dolphin diseases and reproduction overseas. We’d like to work with NABU, MPI, DoC and all interested parties to get that science applied to the gaps in our knowledge here.”

“Good conservation management requires sometimes bold and innovative action. In New Zealand we are world leaders on agriculture reproduction – it’s time our scientists were asked to look at what interventions can be done out on the water to save Maui,” Laws Lawson concluded.


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