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The cost of saving Māui dolphins

New report shows the cost of saving Māui dolphins is equivalent to three years of Ministerial travel expenses

(Embargoed for 00.01 hrs 3 April 2017

A new report estimates that transitioning to dolphin-safe fishing in the habitat of New Zealand’s critically endangered Māui dolphin could be done for as little as $26 million dollars, said global conservation organisation WWF. Māui dolphins are endemic to New Zealand and there are thought to be just 63 over the age of one remaining.

Today, WWF-New Zealand released a report – by Business and Economic Research Limited (BERL) – that examines the potential costs of removing the major fishing threats of set-netting and trawling from the Māui dolphin habitat on the West Coast of the North Island. The report also assesses what it could cost to help fishers transition to dolphin-safe methods.

The report reveals that this transition could be achieved at an estimated cost to the New Zealand government of between $26 million and $40 million. This is the first publicly available research that attempts to quantify the economic implications of removing the threats and shifting to dolphin-safe fishing in Māui dolphin habitat. It represents an important contribution to the discussion and provides a basis on which further, more detailed work can build.

“$26 million is less than what the government spent on the flag referendum,” said Peter Hardstaff, Head of Campaigns at WWF-New Zealand.

“It’s less than the cost of 330 metres of the Warkworth to Wellsford Motorway. It’s less than three years of Ministerial travel expenses. It’s only 0.03% of the government’s annual budget, and less than 1% of the government’s projected surplus this year. Surely as a nation we can spend this on creating a proper sanctuary where the Māui dolphin population can thrive and expand while keeping people fishing.

“It’s a small amount to save our precious Māui dolphins from extinction. We call on the government and all political parties to commit to helping fishers transition to dolphin-safe practices in Māui dolphin habitat.

“This report provides a useful and important first estimate of potential costs. But it’s vital that more detailed work is undertaken to examine and understand the transition options that might be workable for different fishers because there will be no ‘one size fits all’ solution.

“Together, it is possible to save the Māui dolphins while supporting those whose livelihoods depend on fishing. In December 2016, two fishing companies, Sanford Limited and Moana New Zealand, made a ground-breaking commitment to phasing out dolphin-unsafe fishing, including a series of voluntary actions. It’s now time for the government to come to the table.”


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