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International Whaling Commission on Māui dolphins

International Whaling Commission calls for immediate action to protect critically-endangered Māui dolphins

Today the International Whaling Commission has called on the New Zealand government to remove dangerous fishing nets from Māui dolphin habitat.

The Commission has recommended this country give “highest priority” to protecting these critically-endangered dolphins from accidental deaths in the kind of fishing nets that pose the highest risk: set nets and conventional trawl nets.

Currently less than 8 per cent of Māui dolphin habitat is protected from both these kind of fishing. One of the recommendations made by the Commission was to close fisheries in waters where Māui dolphins live.

The Commission estimates there are only 57 adult Māui dolphins left. The Commission noted that the death of just one dolphin would add to the risk of extinction for the entire sub-species.
In the run-up to the 2017 election, several major political parties promised that if elected, they would take action to protect these dolphins. Labour’s policy was to make sure only dolphin-safe fishing methods could be used throughout Māui and Hector’s dolphin habitats. Both New Zealand First and the Green Party’s policies also included this commitment.
"We applaud the parties who committed to protection of one of our nation's most precious taonga: the critically-endangered Māui dolphin" said WWF-New Zealand campaigner, David Tong.

"These dolphins remain at extremely high risk of becoming the next northern white rhino: extinct in our time. As New Zealanders, we can't stand by and just let this happen. Not on our watch" David continued.

Research confirms that New Zealanders care passionately about these animals.

"In 2014, over 100,000 people signed our petition calling on our government to protect Māui dolphins and 75% of New Zealanders agree that the government should support fishers to transition to dolphin-safe fishing methods" he went on. "We call on the government to act now to save a species that is in danger of disappearing forever."

Two of New Zealand's largest fishing companies, Sanford and Moana NZ, have committed to voluntary actions and have also urged the government to take steps to help them protect Māui dolphins.

"We know that no fishing boat crew ever wants to see a dolphin caught in their net" said David. "We need to help our fishing industry do the right thing to protect our precious wildlife as they transition to dolphin-safe practices."

A report published last year by Business Economic Research Ltd calculated the government could support fishers to make the switch to dolphin-friendly fishing techniques for as little as $26 million, equivalent to three years of Ministerial travel expenses.
Notes to editor:
Read the IWC report
• Polling conducted in early 2017 shows that 75% of New Zealanders want the Government to protect Māui dolphins from fishing and support fishing communities to switch to dolphin-safe fishing methods. Read the polling results
• BERL’s modelling calculated the cost of switching to dolphin-safe fishing could cost around $26 million - as little as 0.03% of the annual budget and the equivalent of just three years’ of the previous Government’s ministerial travel budget; or about the same as a flag referendum. More about the BERL report
• Māui dolphins only live up to 20 years, a relatively short lifespan compared to other dolphins and whales. Females have their first calf (baby) between 7 and 9 years of age, and produce just one calf every two to four years. This is why every dolphin death is a significant blow to the Māui dolphin population. Source: DOC

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