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Way forward to protect New Zealand's marine mammals

New policy report charts way forward to protect New Zealand's marine mammals

EDS today releases a new policy report titled Wonders of the Sea: The Protection of New Zealand's Marine Mammals. The report was co-authored by EDS Senior Oceans Researcher Kate Mulcahy and Policy Director Raewyn Peart.

The report contains the results of an in-depth investigation into the adequacy of the current legal and policy framework to manage threats to New Zealand's marine mammals.

"New Zealand prides itself on taking a strong anti-whaling stance in the international arena. However, we have taken our eye off the ball when it comes to protecting whales and dolphins at home," said Ms Peart.

"New Zealand now has the most threatened dolphin sub-species in the world, the Maui's dolphin. Many other marine mammals species are threatened and in decline.

"Although New Zealand performs well in some areas, such as rescuing stranded animals, our research showed that we have fallen far behind international best practice in a number of other important respects.

"The legal framework to address fisheries by-catch is particularly weak when compared to that applied in the USA and Australia.

"This is highlighted by the recent decision on interim measures to protect the Maui's dolphin from set nets. The decision was made by the Minister for Primary Industries under the Fisheries Act.

"The Marine Mammals Protection Act, which is specifically designed to protect the dolphins, was bypassed. The recommendations of the Department of Conservation, the agency tasked with ensuring the dolphins welfare, were effectively ignored.

"We concluded that the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978, which was promulgated over 30 years ago, is still basically sound. But it urgently needs a tune up. The report contains a set of recommendations on how this can be relatively easily achieved.

"We are hopeful that politicians will support legislative change in this area. New Zealanders have a very special connection with these highly intelligent and social creatures. They are also the basis of a thriving tourism industry.

"Losing the Maui's dolphin would not only be a national tragedy. It would seriously undermine New Zealand's international credibility. We can and need to do better in this area", concluded Ms Peart.

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