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Victory and Defeat at the IWC

Victory and Defeat at the IWC

New Zealand’s delegation at the International Whaling Commission has been working hard this week, to stop whaling. The NZ-led resolution on scientific whaling won, with 35 countries voting for, 20 against and 5 abstentions.

Almost the same number of countries (31) spoke out to condemn NZ for not doing enough to protect our own Maui dolphins. Most of the countries who voted with us on scientific whaling voted against us on our lack of protection for Maui dolphin.

These 31 countries are consistent in their views on whale and dolphin conservation. They can see that if it’s important to protect several hundred thousand minke whales in the Southern Ocean (total world population about 1 million minke whales), then it’s even more important to save the last 55 Maui dolphins. For some reason, this logic escapes the NZ government.

While NZ was working hard to save whales at the IWC, the Minister of Conservation Nick Smith was undermining our international reputation by justifying the lack of Maui dolphin protection, to the NZ public, in terms of money and jobs:

The sharp contradiction between what NZ says on the international stage and what we do in NZ waters is not going unnoticed internationally. Most countries are astonished that the same country trying to stop whaling is doing so little to protect its own dolphins. This is the third year in a row that the IWC has told NZ we are not doing enough to protect our Critically Endangered Maui dolphins.

So, once again it was bouquets and brick bats at the IWC. Maui dolphins are literally teetering on the brink of extinction and the main threat, dolphin deaths in fishing nets, is totally avoidable. The only obstacle is a lack of political will.

In this game of “you win some, you lose some” we stand to lose Maui dolphins within a couple of decades, unless the government implements the advice of the IWC.


Dr Liz Slooten, Associate Professor, Zoology Department, Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand

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