Please support the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency’s initiative to list Hector’s and Maui dolphins under the Endangered Species Act. (DETAILS BELOW) NZ needs to substantially improve its marine mammal protection and fisheries management systems. International pressure will help to bring this about. To balance out the many submissions already going in from the NZ fishing industry and Ministry for Primary Industries, please follow the instructions below to send in your comments:
Please write to the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency:
Please make some brief comments (a couple of paragraphs is fine) here: https://www.regulations.gov/...
The United States National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) has proposed listing Hector’s and Maui dolphins under the Endangered Species Act. In a related decision, countries wanting to export fish to the USA have been warned that they must prove, within 5 years, that they have effective marine mammal protection. That will be a major challenge for New Zealand, with NZ sealions, Hector’s and Maui dolphins all heavily impacted by fishing and insufficient information on the other 30 or so other species of marine mammals in NZ waters to know how badly they are affected by fishing. These two initiatives will make it easier for conservation groups in the USA and other parts of the world to advocate for Hector’s and Maui dolphin conservation, encouraging the USA and other countries to stop importing New Zealand fish until NZ dolphins are protected.
NOAA have written an excellent report to support their proposal. It concludes that Hector’s and Maui dolphin have experienced large population declines and are expected to continue to decline due to deaths in fishing nets. They propose to list Hector’s dolphin as Threatened and Maui dolphin as Endangered. The difference between Threatened and Endangered (the only two categories under the ESA) is timing of when a species is in danger of extinction. Either right now (Endangered) or in the foreseeable future (Threatened).
More than 95% of the current impact on Hector’s and Maui dolphins comes from fishing. NOAA are also concerned about potential future impacts, including marine mining. This can lead to long term changes in benthic communities, which in turn affects fish populations and therefore prey availability for dolphins. In addition, there is concern about the use of air guns to look for oil and gas and the resulting drilling activity which can cause hearing damage and behavioural disruption including navigation and feeding.
The US agency considers the current protection measures inadequate. While progress has been made in protecting Hector’s and Maui dolphins from mortality in gillnet and trawl fisheries, more than 80% of their habitat still remains unprotected. There is no evidence that current protection is adequate in addressing fishing or other threats. In addition, government reporting of human impacts on dolphins is inadequate. For example, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research (NIWA) estimated that 110-150 Hector’s and Maui dolphins were killed in fishing nets each year during the years 2000-2006. Yet, during that same period New Zealand reported only 48 dolphin deaths to the International Whaling Commission. The NZ government has neglected its duty to monitor, let alone avoid dolphin deaths in fishing nets.
For more information, see:
Photo: Mridula Srinivasan, NOAA