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International Scientists Speak Out

27 May 2008

International Scientists Speak Out - Hector’s And Maui’s Dolphins Need Full Protection

Conservation group Care for the Wild International (CWI) today drew attention to the international scientific community’s statements supporting the urgent improvements required to ensure the survival of the Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins. Both the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission Cetacean Specialist Group (IUCN SSC CSG) and the Society of Marine Mammalogy (SMM) have called on the Government to take the strongest possible measures to ensure the survival of these endangered New Zealand’s dolphins.

CWI’s Chief Executive Dr Barbara Maas says, “With the Government’s decision on its Threat Management Plan for Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins (TMP) imminent, the world’s leading marine mammal scientists have told the Government that current measures to protect Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins against fishing impact are inadequate and that nets need to be removed from the animals’ habitat to address their extinction threat. This means at least the adoption of Option 3 in the Government’s TMP.”

In a letter to Helen Clark, SMM President Dr John Reynolds urges the Government to consider that Hector's dolphins are amongst the best-studied species of marine mammals, that current measures are inadequate and that ‘management action does not need to wait for further research’.

The Society for Marine Mammology (SMM) is the world’s largest professional group of marine mammal experts and consists of some 2,000 scientists from 60 countries, dedicated to the understanding and conservation of marine mammals and their ecosystems.

“The scientific evidence is very clear. The primary threat to both sub-species is bycatch in commercial and recreational gill net fisheries and trawl fisheries,” says Dr Reynolds.

The IUCN’s Cetacean Specialist Group is an international network of some 85 professional marine mammal scientists with expertise in the conservation of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). It too recommends the ‘adoption of Option three (for both gillnetting and trawling) throughout the range of Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins’, but points out that even Option 3 has considerable shortcomings.

While Option 3 offers the more protection for the dolphins than the alternatives, the IUCN CSG notes that it does not include the entire current range of South Island Hector’s dolphins, nor does it include the entire historic range of Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins. This is crucial for population recovery, which requires habitat for populations to recover into.

The Cetacean Specialist Group also cautions against Option 2 because it offers a complex mix of measures that will be difficult to enforce and makes quantitative assessments of its effectiveness almost impossible.

Dr Maas says, “These comments should finally silence those who have tried to use pseudo-scientific arguments in defence of inaction for so long. They also confirm what Care for the Wild has been saying all along. Significant increases in the nature and extent of the spatial protection are required to limit the risk of extinction for Maui's dolphin and to improve the conservation status of all Hector's dolphin populations.

“Clearly, the time to act is now. There is no need to undertake more research; in fact any further delay would substantially increase the risk of extinction.

“The world’s leading marine mammal scientists have high expectations of New Zealand. They are looking to the Government to provide leadership on this critical conservation issue in the hope that New Zealand’s actions will continue to set a global standard for the effective conservation of the world’s whales, dolphins and porpoises. If such action is not forthcoming, there will be questions about New Zealand’s credibility and reputation, not just at the International Whaling Commission,” Dr Maas said.


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