Workshop charts way forward to protect Bryde's whales
Shipping interests, government agencies, iwi and environmentalists met in Auckland earlier this week to scope out a plan of action to save the Bryde's whale population living in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.
The workshop was jointly convened by the Environmental Defence Society, the Hauraki Gulf Forum and the University of Auckland. It follows on from an earlier workshop held in March.
"On average two Bryde's whales are killed each year in the Hauraki Gulf as a result of ship-strike," said EDS Policy Director Raewyn Peart. "This is an alarming figure given that only 40 to 50 of these whales are resident in the Gulf year round.
"There is an urgent need to reduce the risk to the whales from vessel traffic. It was therefore great to see shipping companies acknowledging the seriousness of the matter and expressing a willingness to work towards a solution.
"The workshop identified a number of actions that can be undertaken immediately to reduce the threat to the whales. These include keeping a better lookout on vessels, reporting whale sightings and narrowing the shipping lane into the Port of Auckland.
"Other measures, such as reducing the speed of vessels in the Hauraki Gulf, warrant further investigation and could be trialled on some vessels.
"There was general agreement that voluntary measures were the preferred way forward in the short-term. The need for longer-term regulatory controls will be considered during the Hauraki Gulf marine spatial plan process which will commence later this year," concluded Ms Peart.
Department of Conservation (DOC) Auckland Conservator Sean Goddard attended the workshop and agreed to convene a joint working group to take the issue forward. The working group will initially consist of DOC, shipping representatives and University of Auckland marine mammal biologist, Dr Rochelle Constantine.
"We are looking to make good progress on this issue in a smaller forum," said Mr Goddard. "There are some practical things which we can get on with implementing right away, and other potential responses which will need further investigation.
Chairman of the Hauraki Gulf Forum, John Tregidga, agreed to host a follow-up workshop later in the year.
"The Bryde's whale is an iconic species for the Hauraki Gulf. We want to ensure that resolving this issue is given high priority by all those concerned," said Mr Tregidga.