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Hauraki Gulf Whale-strike workshop seeks answers

5 March 2012

Hauraki Gulf Whale-strike workshop seeks answers

A recent workshop convened by the Environmental Defence Society, the Hauraki Gulf Forum and The University of Auckland has agreed to try to find a solution to the incidence of whale ship-strikes in the Hauraki Gulf.

"We heard from the scientists, led by Dr Rochelle Constantine, that there are around 40 to 50 Bryde's Whales resident in the Hauraki Gulf and that on average two of them are killed each year from ship-strikes," said EDS Policy Director Raewyn Peart.

"Our invitation-only workshop brought together many of the key players in the Gulf and there was a general acceptance that this needs addressing urgently.

"New Zealand's Bryde's Whale population is critically endangered and we can't afford to lose them with such alarming frequency. A number of solutions were canvassed including slowing down large ships, creating shipping corridors and using technology.

"A range of regulatory methods were also explored but given the urgency there was a clear preference for voluntary methods in the short-term," Ms Peart said.

The Department of Conservation's Auckland Conservator Sean Goddard says DOC has been active in efforts to address the ship strike issue and together with the Auckland Regional Council and others provided funding for the research.

"The new research shows that these whales spend more than 90% of their time less than 12 metres below the surface of the Hauraki Gulf which explains why they are so vulnerable to being struck by large ships.

"DOC is committed to protecting marine mammals and working with other agencies and the industry to find solutions to the ship strike problem," says Mr Goddard.

The Chairman of the Hauraki Gulf Forum, John Tredgida, said that he would be writing to the relevant Ministers to draw their attention to the crisis in the Gulf.

"What became very clear as we explored the issues was there are multiple agencies involved in this issue and there will need to be good co-ordination to find an early solution," said Mr Tredgida.

A follow-up workshop will be held in 3 months time to assess progress.


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