Rt Hon John Key
Cc: Hon David Carter
Cc: Hon Kate Wilkinson
October 24, 2012
Dear Prime Minister,
Re: Maui’s dolphin
The 50 undersigned national and international organisations, representing over 20 million concerned citizens globally, would like to express our deep concern for the critically endangered Maui’s dolphin, a subspecies of Hector’s dolphin found only in New Zealand waters. In order to prevent New Zealand becoming the first country to allow the extinction of a marine dolphin due to human activity, recommendations from leading cetacean experts around the world must be urgently adopted.
The New Zealand government’s existing and newly proposed conservation measures fall significantly short of the recommendations made by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) Scientific Committee and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress, and fail to adequately protect these critically endangered dolphins from commercial and recreational gillnet fishing and trawling throughout their entire range. Given New Zealand’s long-standing championing of cetacean conservation, the lack of urgent government action to eliminate fishing bycatch, identified as the primary human threat to Hector’s and Maui’s, has been widely criticised by the international cetacean conservation community.
Specifically, in late June 2012 the IWC Scientific Committee recommended1 to immediately extend the North Island protected area to approximately 80km south of the latest dolphin bycatch site (Maunganui Bluff to Hawera), offshore to the 100m depth contour, and including all harbours, for gillnet and trawl fisheries. The Committee also indicated that “adequate observer coverage across all inshore trawl and gillnet fisheries is important in order to obtain robust scientific data on continuing bycatch as a means of assessing the effectiveness of protection measures” and that “further population fragmentation could be avoided by also protecting the north coast of the South Island, providing safe ‘corridors’ between North and South Island populations.” The marine corridor between the South and North Islands, habitat beyond 7 nautical miles, as well as the harbours, all still remain largely unprotected despite being important to Maui’s dolphin recovery.
Concern and effort to protect small cetaceans is growing internationally and it is very alarming that New Zealand was the only member to oppose a recent motion to the IUCN World Conservation Congress in late September 2012 on 'Actions to avert the extinction of rare dolphins: Maui's dolphins, Hector's dolphins, Vaquita porpoises and South Asian river dolphins'. The World Conservation Congress adopted the motion2 with 117 governmental and 459 NGO votes in favour, after it had been reviewed by the IUCN Species Survival Commission Cetacean Specialist Group. The motion urged the New Zealand government to “expand the areas of protection from gillnetting and trawling to cover the entire range of the Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins”, recognised by experts as being the 100m depth contour. This motion also called on the New Zealand government to “immediately increase the level of monitoring and enforcement by requiring 100 percent observer coverage on any gillnet 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 to report such action and monitoring and enforcement results".
IWC/64/rep1. Report of the Scientific Committee at page 81.
The March 2012 Department of Conservation population estimate determined that only about 55 Maui’s dolphins over one year old remain in the world and New Zealand government-commissioned scientific studies indicate an extremely low level of incidental mortality is possible if the species is to survive i.e. one death from human interaction every 10 to 23 years. If New Zealand is to ensure a future for Maui’s dolphins, the government must take decisive and urgent action to eliminate all human-induced threats.
Whilst acknowledging steps the New Zealand government has taken protecting Maui’s and Hector's dolphins to date, the current protection measures are insufficient and we urgently request the immediate implementation of the key recommendations of the IWC Scientific Committee and the IUCN World Conservation Congress to protect Maui’s across their entire range from gillnet and trawl fishing out to 100m deep, and including harbours and the South-North Island marine corridor, in order to avoid their extinction.
Chris Howe, Executive Director of WWF-New Zealand
(signing on behalf of attached image NGO's)
PO Box 6237
Tel: +64 (0)4 471 4282