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IWC puts Maui’s dolphin fate in government’s hands

IWC puts Maui’s dolphin fate in government’s hands

Independent conservation organisation Forest & Bird says a new report from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) obliges the government to immediately create a sanctuary that protects the entire habitat of the critically endangered Maui’s dolphin.

It is estimated that there are only 55 Maui’s dolphins aged more than one year. They are found along the northern half of the North Island’s west coast.

The report was written by the commission’s scientific committee. The committee met in May, but only released its report overnight (New Zealand time).

The report says the committee “reiterates that rather than seeking further scientific evidence it is of highest priority to take immediate management actions that will eliminate 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 (i.e. set net and trawl fisheries)”.

The report also states that: “The Committee notes that the current range of Maui’s dolphins comprises the area from Maunganui Bluff in the north to Whanganui in the south, offshore to 20 nautical miles and including harbours ... within this defined area, fishing methods other than set nets and trawling should be used”.

Last year the government slightly extended the zone in which set-nets are prohibited, off the North Island’s west coast. But it has refused to create a comprehensive Maui’s dolphin sanctuary, in which gill nets, trawling, mining, and seismic testing would be banned. Forest & Bird is campaigning for a sanctuary of this type, which would include the dolphin’s entire habitat, as recognised by the IWC.

“The IWC has made it clear that what New Zealand has done so far to protect the world’s most endangered dolphin is not up to the job. The Maui’s is so close to extinction that the time for excuses passed long ago,” says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.

“We are waiting with interest to see whether Conservation Minister Nick Smith will implement the recommendations of the International Whaling Commission,” Kevin Hackwell says.


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