17, Jun, 2019

Hector’s and Maui Dolphin Threat Plan Action needs more work

Category: ECO Inc

The government’s proposals to protect Maui and Hector’s dolphin are  far too weak, are over- complicated, and do not include proposals for dolphin protection to the 100m contour that have been endorsed by many including international organisations, the Environment and Conservation Organisations (ECO) says in response to the proposed dolphin threat management plan, issued today.

ECO spokesperson, Barry Weeber said it was disappointing that DoC and the Ministry of  Primary Industries ( MPI) had failed to put forward comprehensive options that could protect Maui and Hector’s dolphin.

“Only one of the Maui dolphin options gets close to comprehensive protection (Option 4) but fails to include the full range of measures that have been endorsed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and by the International Whaling Commission).  Set nets and trawling should be prohibited out to 100m contour so that the dolphins do not go extinct and have a chance to recover.”

“The Hector’s dolphin options are a mishmash of proposals with none getting close to adequate protection.  There are few changes of substance to measures for the vulnerable populations south of Dunedin in the Catlins and Te Waewae Bay.”

“It seems the proposal continues a process of creating marine mammal sanctuaries with little substance.  It is time these areas prohibited fishing that threaten the dolphins and prohibited all mineral activity as well.”

“Seismic surveys and seabed mining should be banned, for all, including existing permit-holders,  in the dolphins’ ranges.  Why is the government giving in to the oil and gas and mineral miners?  Why should they have exemptions that could tip our dolphins into extinction?”

The proposals look as though some officials have set up the Ministers to fail to protect the dolphins or have just given in to fishing and mining interests.  We must do better than these proposals if we are to stop these animals going extinct.  Extinction could be avoided but these proposals will not do it.”

"New Zealand needs to act with urgency to protect critically endangered Maui dolphin and endangered Hector’s dolphin, and that means protection from fishing, mining and seismic activity out to 100m depth contour.”

Background information:

1.  Hector’s dolphin is listed by IUCN Red List as an endangered species and Maui dolphins is listed as a critically endangered species, the highest risk rating under the red list criteria – see www.redlist.org

2.  The IUCN – the World Conservation Union passed a recommendation at its General Assembly in 2012:

1. URGES the New Zealand Government to:
a. urgently extend dolphin protection measures, with an emphasis on banning gill net and trawl net use from the shoreline to the 100 metre depth contour in all areas where Hector’s and Maui’s Dolphins are found, including harbours;
b. to increase immediately the level of monitoring and enforcement with an emphasis on requiring 100 per cent observer coverage of any gill net or trawling vessels allowed to operate in any part of the range of Hector’s and Maui’s Dolphins until such bans can be implemented; and
c. to report such action and monitoring and enforcement results; 

3.  The IWC Scientific Committee Small Cetacean Working Group has recommended action over several years.  In 2018 they stated:

“Nonetheless, the sub-committee noted that no new management action has been enacted since 2013 and concludes, as it has repeatedly in the past, that existing management measures in relation to bycatch mitigation fall short of what has been recommended previously and expresses continued grave concern over the status of this small, severely depleted subspecies. The human-caused death of even one individual would increase the extinction risk. The sub-committee:
(a) re-emphasises that the critically endangered status of this subspecies and the inherent and irresolvable uncertainty surrounding information on most small populations point to the need for precautionary management;
(b) reiterates its previous recommendation that highest priority should be assigned to immediate management actions to eliminate bycatch of Māui dolphins including closures of any fisheries within the range of Māui dolphins that are known to pose a risk of bycatch to dolphins (i.e. set net and trawl fisheries); and
(c) notes that the confirmed current range extends from Maunganui Bluff in the north to Whanganui in the south, offshore to 20 n.miles, and it includes harbours - within this defined area, fishing methods other than set nets and trawling should be used”

4.  ECO has joined with other environmental groups calling for a ban on sets and trawling out to 100 metre depth contour which is considered the maximum range of these dolphins in winter.