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Experts Appalled at Oil Survey Threat to Maui Dolphin

Experts Appalled at Oil Survey Threat to Maui Dolphin

Monday 14 July 2014: Following yesterday’s rally at John Key’s electorate office in Kumeu, international dolphin experts are appalled that that the Government has allowed seismic oil surveys to occur in the protected area for the world’s smallest and most endangered dolphin a week after a dead blue whale washed ashore on the Taranaki coast.

“We ask the Prime Minister to immediately halt all seismic and sonar surveys in the Maui protection area and for this zone to be extended to 20 nautical miles offshore, as recommended by the International Whaling Commission,” says Dr Liz Slooten, Maui dolphin expert of Otago University.

“If you wanted to protect the last Maui dolphins, one of the last things you’d do is head into their habitat exploding sonic airguns that can injure and killwhales and dolphins,” says Dr Liz Slooten. “It is a recipe for extinction. But that’s exactly what’s been happening since early June.”

On 4 July a dead blue whale washed ashore at Tapuae Beach, Taranaki (1) but was too decomposed to ascertain the cause of death.

Oil survey ship Duke, commissioned byTodd Shell, had surveyed throughout June within the Maui dolphin protectionarea south of Mt Taranaki (2). This is where blue whales, usually solitary animals, have been recently discovered gathering to feed (2).

An attached map shows the route of the seismic testing two weeks ago, in another part of the Maui dolphin protection zone west of Mt Taranaki and near New Plymouth (also read map interpretation at end of this media release).

"The argument from oil companies that seismic surveys haven't been associated with dolphin or whale deaths is practicallymeaningless at best, or false, at worst,” says Dr Lindy Weilgart one of the world experts on the impact of sonar on whales and dolphins of Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada.

“Seismic surveys have been strongly tied to fatal whale, dolphin and giant squid strandings and deaths at sea,” said DrWeilgart. "Of course, if you don't look, you won't see. Oil and gas companies do not undertake thorough surveys for whale and dolphin carcasses. Even if they did, only about 3% of dolphin carcasses are ever detected, as they sink or are eaten by predators.”

“Finally, immediate deaths are not the only concern. Seismic surveys can cause dolphins to avoid important habitat, can interfere with their food-finding, reproduction, resting, and hearing sounds vital to their survival, and can cause stress effects. All these canhave serious impacts on the welfare of these populations and the welfare oftheir prey," she said.

1 http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/10231887/Dead-whale-washes-up-on-beach

2 http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1407/S00066/oil-exploration-in-maui-dolphin-protection-zone.htm

3 http://www.stuff.co.nz/taranaki-daily-news/news/9681753/Blue-whale-dine-out-off-Taranaki-in-their-dozens

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