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Sea Shepherd: Maui Dolphin Death – Fisheries Bycatch Cannot Be Discounted

This week DOC reported a dead Maui dolphin was found at Muriwai in February. There was once again considerable concern the Government agency took months to report a death of this critically endangered dolphin. Of equal concern is the pathology report where although the cause of death was noted as “Indeterminable”, illness and a large shark bite were mentioned as possible causes. Sea Shepherd would like to make it clear to interested parties that fisheries bycatch (either commercial or recreational) cannot be discounted, and it would have been judicious to also note this as a possible cause.

Sea Shepherd NZ’s science advisor has studied the report and noted the documented finding,

"A 35mm linear skin incision was present in the skin at the midline transversely across the throat region." as of particular interest. This incision could indicate either an entanglement in a gillnet or an injury sustained from a commercial vessel’s trawling gear. Unfortunately, no close photo of the injury was provided. Additionally, and contrary to the report, the female Maui does not appear to be “very thin” and therefore less likely to have “…been ill for some time…”.

“Until these harmful fishing methods are removed from the entire Maui habitat, bycatch from the commercial fishing industry remains a major threat.” Says Sea Shepherd NZ Managing Director, Michael Lawry.

Thanks, needs to be given to Otautahi conservationist Genevieve Robinson for once again holding DOC to account and requesting updates on any recent Maui or Pahu (Hector’s) incidents. This prompted DOC to finally release the latest Maui incident which they had been sitting on for four months.

Also, this week the 2021 report of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission was released. This is the 10th year in which the IWC has urged New Zealand to fully protect its critically endangered Maui dolphin, which is found nowhere else in the World. Over the years, the IWC recommendation has increased from “concern” to “grave concern” and the Scientific Committee has emphasized the need for precautionary management. Having let the population decline for the last 40-50 years, right now the catch of just one Maui dolphin in fishing net could lead to extinction.

The IWC continues to call for a ban on both of these fishing methods out to 20 nautical miles offshore.

The IWC Scientific Committee has now initiated a detailed peer-review of MPI’s work, to evaluate the model they used to advise the Minister on dolphin protection options. This includes a review of the controversial NIWA report linking Maui and Pahu (Hector’s) deaths to cats from toxoplasma.

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