Sanford and Moana take small step to save Māui dolphins - what about Talleys and Govt?

Press release - December 15, 2016
Auckland: Greenpeace welcomes Sanford and Moana’s new commitment to reducing set net fishing in some of the habitat of the critically endangered Māui dolphin - it is a small step in the right direction. But why won’t the other fishing companies and the Government take steps to save Māui dolphins from extinction?

The two fishing companies have announced they won’t lease quota to fishers using set nets in Māui dolphin habitat north of New Plymouth from October 2017. But they will continue to trawl in this area until at least 2022. And they will continue to take fish caught in set nets in Māui habitat south of New Plymouth and in harbours. We understand the new measures are likely to affect five fishing boats.

“It’s a small step in the right direction, but this is just the beginning”, said Dr. Russel Norman, Executive Director of Greenpeace New Zealand.

“The fishing industry has drowned thousands of Māui dolphins over the last few decades in set nets and trawl nets. But the industry has been in denial about their responsibility. The head of Seafood NZ, George Clement, claimed this year it was the dolphins own fault that they were getting drowned in nets by ‘putting themselves at risk near our fishing boats, causing themselves harm’.

“So it is a welcome development that two fishing companies have split from the rest and at last acknowledged the responsibility of the fishing industry for driving these dolphins to the very edge of extinction and have taken a small step to halt the slaughter.

The Māui dolphin or popoto, is the world's rarest and smallest dolphin. They are only found off the West Coast of New Zealand's North Island. A recent population estimate indicated that only about 63 breeding age individuals remain. They are threatened by net fishing, mining and oil exploration activities including seismic testing. Almost 70,000 people have signed a petition asking the Government to give the tiny dolphins proper protection.

“The Sanford and Moana announcement highlights the lack of action by a Government which is more intent on protecting the fishing industry than protecting our dolphins from extinction.

“By recognising that Maui habitat goes out to the 100m depth line, Sanford and Moana New Zealand are now going further than the New Zealand Government in recognising the extent of Māui habitat. The Government is still pretending that they only need protection close to shore in spite of reports by the International Whaling Commission to the contrary.

“This small step isn’t going to make a real difference unless the rest of the industry follows and it goes further,” said Norman. “Talleys needs to stop using dolphin killing fishing methods and the Government needs to enforce real protection for Māui dolphins across the fishing industry.

Greenpeace New Zealand teamed up with the University of Auckland for a recent winter survey of Māui behaviour. Little is known about where Māui go in the colder water months. Recent research showed Hector’s dolphins, the Māui dolphins’ closest relative, travel outside their normal habitat in winter, away from protected waters. If Māui are doing the same, they may be moving outside the current limited sanctuary and into areas where there are more human related threats.

“I went out there and saw the dolphins myself. It was an incredibly emotional experience. It’s crazy to think we’ve let the fishing industry massacre them for decades,” said Norman.

Norman concluded, “The survey is ongoing but what it tells us so far, is that there is so much we don’t know and we need to take a precautionary approach. Māui are still the rarest dolphin in the world, which makes them one of the rarest animals in the world. We need to see serious commitment from both the fishing industry and Government to ensure our generation doesn’t preside over the extinction of these beautiful creatures.”

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