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March for Māui This Sunday, 1pm Silo Park, Auckland

March for Māui This Sunday, 1pm Silo Park, Auckland

A ‘March for Māui’ this Sunday at 1pm from Silo Park, Auckland, will add to pressure on the Labour-led government to keep the programme of installing electronic video monitoring on the fishing fleet and to do more to protect Māui and Hector’s dolphins from accidental entrapment in fishing gear.

Māui and Hector’s dolphins are among the world’s smallest and rarest marine dolphins, with some subspecies populations as low as around 63 adults (Māui) and 40 (South Island Otago ‘Pahu’ populations). They have experienced rapid decline since the 1970s, resulting in ‘critically endangered’ and ‘threatened’ status under the IUCN threat status classification, and repeated calls from the International Whaling Commission for New Zealand to do more to protect them.

Scientists say full habitat protection is required – out to about 100m deep or at least 12 nautical miles. Leading up to the last election, the parties now in the ruling coalition, vowed to improve protection, but both dolphin and recreational fishing advocates, say the government is betraying those promises and threatening to do less, not more.

The Minister of Fisheries, Stuart Nash, is considering canning the electronic video monitoring programme which would have improved transparency and accountability on the fishing fleet, providing better information about the capture and dumping of non-target, undersize fish and endangered species such as Māui and Hector’s and other marine mammals and sea birds.

The ‘March for Māui’ is part of a wide expression of dissatisfaction in civil society about the government’s ‘broken promises’ and failure to oversee and regulate the fishing industry satisfactorily for sustainability purposes.

A 2014 economic report commissioned by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, found that more than 80% of New Zealanders wanted to see more protection for Māui and Hector’s dolphins, ‘but this government is suggesting doing less’ says Māui and Hector’s Dolphin Defenders Chairwoman, Christine Rose.

‘Protecting the fishing industry despite its proven waste and criminal by-catch, is more a priority than protecting critically endangered endemic dolphins’ says Mrs Rose.

‘We’ve lost progress on implementing the electronic monitoring scheme, despite it being critical to properly understanding trawling impacts on fish stocks and dolphin viability’. ‘There is evidence, and anecdotes from fishers about the scale of dolphins killed, that needs to be verified for consumers here and overseas to have confidence about the sustainability of our fishing sector’. ‘The absence of cameras undermines the ability for all sides to be confident of fishing impacts, and that regulation, monitoring and enforcement is in the best interests of fish stocks and other marine species survival’. ‘The Labour-led Government is seriously out of sync with its parties’ pre-election promises, and out of touch with what the public want’.

‘We call on the government to do more, not less, to protect Māui and Hector’s dolphins, and remain of the view that the Minister’s decision to delay and potentially withdraw electronic monitoring, is fatally flawed’.

‘Our march is accompanied by the installation of a large billboard condemning government inaction which is killing our dolphins, on Auckland’s Northern Motorway’. ‘It’s accompanied by petitions and lobbying from other NGOs such as WWF NZ, Forest and Bird, and LegaSea’.

Some in society question whether election donations from Talley’s and other conflicts of interests are having undue influence in fisheries management decisions. ‘We’ve heard allegations that Shane Jones, who has openly declared donations from Talley’s, is exerting pressure on Stuart Nash, affecting this decision’, says Mrs Rose. ‘Whatever Nash’s reasons, they’re scientifically and morally unfounded, unsustainable, and untenable if many of our endangered marine species are to survive –Māui and Hector’s but also sea lions and sea birds’.

‘That’s why we’ll be marching for Māui tomorrow, with effigies of Shane Jones and Stuart Nash, and will continue to pressure the government for better protection of Māui and Hector’s, in the interests of openness and accountability on the fishing fleet, and honesty and integrity in government’.

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