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Minister has got it wrong on Dolphin deaths

19 March 2008

Minister has got it wrong on Dolphin deaths: Green Party

The scientist who provoked the Conservation Minister into releasing photos of 22 bloody and battered dolphin carcasses on the deck of a fishing boat through an official information request says that the Common Dolphin species urgently needs to be reclassified as 'data deficient'.

Green Party Conservation Spokesperson Metiria Turei says "Currently Common Dolphins are classified as 'not threatened'. By incorrectly classifying these dolphins, the Government is not even approaching a point where adequate protections can be put in place."

Massey University marine biologist Karen Stockin says "It would be more honest to admit that we know next to nothing about this species, rather than apparently classifying them on the basis of their name."

Ms Stockin says that "Previous studies which extrapolate from observed figures show that up to 300 Common Dolphins may be killed annually in this one particular fishery alone."

Mrs Turei agrees that "There is simply not enough data available on these beautiful creatures to make any assumptions about their numbers, and with the fishing industry clearly capable of scooping up 20 in one trip, we may never get the opportunity."

"You don't have to be a biologist to know that a death rate of up to 300 - in a manner that is entirely avoidable and highly traumatic - is not sustainable for this long lived and slow breeding species.

"The Conservation Minister has got it wrong when she says that the deaths of 20 so-called Common Dolphins as 'by catch' is a one-off incident.

"This is not the first time such a horrific event has occurred, contrary to the Ministers' statement yesterday that this was an 'unprecedented' incident. A similar massacre occurred in the summer of 2002, where a single fishing boat slaughtered 20 dolphins in one trip.


"The Seafood Industry Council's comments yesterday that 'Fishermen feel gutted about this sort of thing' is clearly just PR spin given that similar massacres have been documented several times. I doubt that the fishermen involved felt as gutted as the dying dolphins, and clearly they didn't feel gutted enough to fish elsewhere when they knew that dolphins were in the area.

"The Ministers of Conservation and Fisheries must recognise the extent of the problem and act immediately to protect these animals, instead of offering paltry threats of action at some undefined point in the distant future."

ENDS

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