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Camera programme about protecting market share, not dolphins

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Camera programme about protecting market share, not dolphins, says World Animal Protection.

Ever since the newly elected Labour-led Government scrapped the comprehensive fisheries camera programme promised by the National Government, conservation groups have been clamouring for the programme to be reinstated.

But now that the Government has promised $17.1million to install cameras on 28 of the 1000 vessels fishing in New Zealand waters, not one environmental group is celebrating.

Across the board, NGOs such as Greenpeace, Forest and Bird, World Animal Protection, Sea Shepherd and others, as well as leading scientists, have all denounced the camera initiative, saying it’s underwhelming, inadequate, and a back down to the fishing industry.

Global animal welfare organisation World Animal Protection says the real motivation behind the paltry camera move, is to head-off the petition from Sea Shepherd, currently being considered by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Authority, which seeks to ban the importation of NZ seafood because of Māui by-catch.

The cameras will do nothing to keep endangered Māui and Hector’s dolphins safe, says World Animal Protection Campaign Advisor, Christine Rose. Most of the Māui habitat already has observer coverage, while Hector’s have virtually none, and dozens, perhaps hundreds of Hector’s dolphins, are killed every year.

Local and global NGOs, scientists, and the International Whaling Commission, all call on the Government to protect Māui and Hector’s throughout their range, out to 100m deep, in harbours and the ‘dolphin corridor’ between the North and South Islands in the upcoming Threat Management Plan. The government has avoided interim protection to stop dolphins being killed, but in a peicemeal manouvere are working with the fishing industry to put cameras on up to only 28 boats in Māui habitat.

At the Friday waterside announcement of this plan, the Minister of Fisheries Stuart Nash said ““For me this isn’t just about compliance in any way shape and form. It is about going to the world with a global brand and saying to the world when you buy fish from New Zealand, you are buying from a fishery which is sustainably managed.” But putting cameras on some boats doesn’t make the wider fisheries impacts on Māui and Hector’s dolphins sustainable.

This cynical move supports the status quo killing of endangered endemic dolphins, distracts from the ultimate protection required, fails to apply a comprehensive camera regime across Māui and Hector’s habitat, and unjustly props up the reputation of industry fishing in Māui habitat alone.

At the camera programme announcement, the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern highlighted the coming Threat Management Plan, and said, ‘watch this space’. World Animal Protection’s Mrs Rose says the government will have to deliver actual dolphin protection, not lip-service or symbolic gestures that save no dolphins at all. ‘ Observers and cameras should be part of that response, but getting the nets out of the dolphin habitat has to be the ultimate solution if the killing is to stop”.

“The Māui camera programme is about protecting market share and the export of fish to the US, not about protecting the dolphins’. ‘ Full protection from impacts of set and trawl nets across the whole of Māui and Hector’s habitat where there’s clear evidence of unsustainable by-catch, would be more credible and effective for conservation goals, accompanied by cameras and observers. But a few cameras are no end to dolphin mortality”.

‘Unfortunately this delivers more to protect the fishing industry reputation from international trade scrutiny, than it does to protect the dolphins themselves’.

-ENDS-

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