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Credible research needed on Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins

29 September 2011

Credible research needed on Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins

The New Zealand Seafood Council today challenged the ‘science’ behind the emotive statements made in a University of Aberdeen media statement on Hector’s dolphins.

“The New Zealand seafood industry supports credible research on Hector’s dolphins so that we can ensure appropriate and effective decisions can be made to ensure the long-term survival of these marine mammals. So it is disappointing to see comments in the statement presented as science-based facts,” said David Middleton, Chief Scientist, of the New Zealand Seafood Council.

Dr Middleton said there is no scientific basis to the supposed ‘30,000’ dolphins ‘decimated’ in nets. They are outputs of a model, where the results are strongly compromised by limited data and flawed assumptions.

He said the industry is very familiar with research carried out on these species and is aware of the origin of most of the figures quoted in the University of Aberdeen media release, despite the fact that it claimed to be presenting “new research”.

“The various figures quoted are not derived from a single, integrated piece of research but instead are the result of ‘cherry picking’ the worst possible estimates from a variety of incompatible pieces of work,” Dr Middleton said.

“Nevertheless we have to accept that data on these dolphins are sparse. And while population models can help fill in the gaps in the data, these results have to be treated with caution. For example, the claim that there was a population of 30,000 Hector’s dolphins in 1970 that has been decimated by set-netting is a result that is driven primarily by model assumption. It actually conflicts with earlier data that were not included in the modelling. Pretending the science is certain when it is not is simply misleading the public, and ultimately brings science into disrepute.”


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