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Loopholes Remain In Māui And Hector's Dolphin Protection

The Government has listened to public demands to save Māui and Hector’s dolphins, but loopholes remain in the Threat Management Plan announced today.

Forest & Bird is welcoming significantly greater restrictions on fishing methods that threaten dolphins, and applauding a plan to tackle the disease toxoplasmosis.

However, loopholes in the Threat Management Plan for Māui and Hector’s dolphins will leave dolphins at risk.

"Today’s announcement gets the country part of the way towards safeguarding Hector’s dolphin and turning around the perilous decline of Māui dolphin but more work needs to be done,” says Forest & Bird spokesperson Geoff Keey.

“Expanded restrictions on set netting are welcome, but for dolphins to survive and flourish they need to be protected from trawling and set netting out to 100m depth though-out their range.”

"More could be done to reduce the threat from trawling, and major gaps in protection remain in the South Island.”

One change to the regulations allows the Minister of Fisheries to act immediately to impose restrictions if a dolphin is caught in the Māui dolphin habitat, which is on the west coast of the North Island.

"There are so few Māui dolphins that even a single one being caught is one too many," says Mr Keey.

"If even one Māui dolphin is caught, the trawl fishery in Māui habitat should be closed immediately."

“Seismic surveys and other activities related to oil, gas and other marine mining activities have no place in the dolphins’ habitat. Exempting the current 21 oil and gas permit holders from the ban in Māui dolphin habitat means the ban won’t be really start until 2046."

"This is a major loophole. Māui dolphins could be extinct before the ban even takes effect."

Forest & Bird is looking for every loophole to be closed to ensure our rare and unique dolphins survive.

“There are only around 60 Māui dolphins over a year old left in the world. The survival of each one counts," says Mr Keey.

“We need to tackle all of the threats caused by humans. This is our last chance, and half measures will not do enough to ensure Māui dolphins will be here for future generations."

Responses to key announcements from the Threat Management Plan for Māui and Hector's dolphins:

  • A nationwide ban on drift netting is a good tidy up of the rules, but in reality there is already negligible drift netting in New Zealand.
  • The extension of current set-net closures, and the creation of new areas closed to set-netting, in the North and South Islands is welcome but significant gaps in protection remain that will leave local populations of Hector’s dolphin at risk in the South Island, and leave Māui dolphin at risk from trawling.
  • An extension of the existing area closed to trawling off the west coast of the North Island is welcomed.
  • A change to the regulations allowing the Minister of Fisheries to act to impose restrictions if a single dolphin is caught in the Māui dolphin habitat should not be discretionary. The trawl fishery in Māui habitat should be closed if a Māui dolphin is caught.
  • Forest & Bird welcomes support for affected fishers to enable them to change to dolphin friendly fishing methods or leave the industry if they prefer.

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