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NABU International: “Hobbit of the Seas” Can Be Saved

NABU International: “Hobbit of the Seas” Can Be Saved

Scientists Demand New Zealand to Save Maui’s Dolphins

Berlin – The latest statistics of the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) updated Red List of Endangered Species are alarming.  A third of 70,294 species which have been assessed are threatened with extinction. Almost 800 others are already extinct.

"You would hope that the nations of the world would do everything in their power to prevent the irreversible loss of these building blocks of biodiversity on which all our lives depend," said Thomas Tennhardt, President of NABU International – Foundation for Nature. "But the New Zealand Government has been recalcitrant with regard to its responsibility to protect the rarest and smallest dolphin species of all.  Unless New Zealand rethinks its position immediately, Maui's dolphins will become extinct within a matter of years."

Maui's dolphins are a subspecies of Hector’s dolphins that live off the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. They are both the smallest and rarest dolphin species on earth. Fishing with gillnets and trawling has reduced Maui’s dolphins from an estimated 1800 in 1970 to 50 individuals today – that’s less than 15 breeding females.
Last month, NABU International ‘s Head of Conservation, Dr. Barbara Maas, attended the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to present a report, which detailed the serious conservation status of Maui’s dolphin’s and explained how the Government’s Threat Management Plan (TMP) contains no solution to the dolphins’ imminent demise.

“The TMP is woefully inadequate, riddled with inconsistencies, and falls short of what is required to prevent the dolphins’ extinction," says Barbara Maas.  “It ignores the advice of experts and fails to provide any rationale for the management measures it proposes.  Range-wide protection is not included as a possible solution.”
“What’s striking is that not one sentence in the 209 page TMP is dedicated to what the conservation benefits of any of the measures the Government is proposing might be. In contrast, many dozens of pages are devoted to the economic impact on the fishing industry.”
“In line with the position of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Society for Marine Mammalogy (SSM), NABU International will continue to press for the immediate and comprehensive protection of the last Maui’s dolphins across their habitat.”

The IWC’s Scientific Committee also reflects this view. In its recently published report the IWC scientists express “extreme concern about the survival of Maui’s dolphin(s)” and warn that the death of even one individual as a result of human interference will push Maui’s dolphins closer to extinction.  Rather than spending more time studying the situation, as envisaged by the Government, New Zealand should make the immediate implementation of management actions that eliminate further dolphin entanglements its highest priority. This includes the full closure of harmful fisheries within the dolphin’s range, together with the creation of generous buffer zones.

“At present, less than 19 percent of Maui's dolphin habitat is protected," said Dr. Maas.  “Because the population is so small, and because Maui’s dolphins breed very slowly, Maui’s can only cope with one human-caused death every 10 to 23 years. But fishing alone kills about five.”

“We estimate that Maui’s dolphins will become extinct in less than 20 years. But this can easily be avoided if New Zealand acts now. Whether it will or not depends on whether New Zealand is prepared to free itself from the stranglehold of its fishing industry.”
“While the last Maui’s dolphins are struggling to survive, New Zealand is busy arguing against Japan’s whale hunt in Southern Ocean at the International Court of Justice in De Hague. It’s time to take a similarly principled stance with regard to its own "Hobbits of the Seas" back home.”


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