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Dolphin deaths signal further trouble for exports

DOC’s recent report that 4-5 Pahu (Hector’s) have been killed as bycatch in commercial trawl operations in the last six months further demonstrates how desperately we need to be following best practice recommendations for our NZ Dolphin both Maui and Hector's. New Zealand has until 2022, to provide detailed information to the US about all New Zealand fisheries that kill marine mammals – in particular gillnet and trawl fisheries. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) US citizens want to be sure that they are not buying fish from fisheries that are endangering mammal populations.

“Fishermen continue to deny Pahu (Hector's) get caught in trawl fisheries, in fact some say it’s impossible. We know only 1% are reported and this rate our Pahu will suffer the same fate as the Maui. Gill nets and trawl fisheries must be removed from the Pahu habitat" says Sea Shepherd New Zealand Operation Pahu Campaign Leader Grant Meikle.

Last Thursday Sea Shepherd (Sea Shepherd Legal, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Sea Shepherd New Zealand) filed a petition to the US Government to immediately ban all imports from New Zealand fisheries that are driving the Māui dolphin to extinction. Maui, the North Island sub species of Hector’s is also a victim of bycatch in fisheries using gillnets and trawls and is down to the last 50-60 dolphins. Sea Shepherd is invoking the ‘emergency clause' under the MMPA for critically endangered marine mammals, like Maui dolphin not likely to make it to 2022 before the full US regulations commence. The US Administration has sixty days to respond before Sea Shepherd seeks redress in court.

“It’s clear that Hector’s are headed in the same direction as Maui and we have noted as part of Operation Pahu some of their sub populations have disappeared for ever. We need good science to drive our protection measures otherwise we further risk running afoul of other’s countries more strict criteria around marine mammal bycatch” says Sea Shepherd Managing Director Michael Lawry.

It is essential that this year the Government’s Threat Management Plan for Maui and Hector’s finally gives our NZ Dolphin some real protection against threats in their habitat.

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