A Dunedin scientist heading to the latest International
Whaling Commission meeting says it will be embarrassing to
speak on New Zealand's reluctance to offer full protection to
Maui's dolphins given its stance on Japanese whaling.
University of Otago Assoc Prof Liz Slooten will present a
paper to the commission's small cetaceans (marine mammals)
scientific committee in Slovenia late next week on the
effectiveness of the Government's extensions to protected
areas for Maui's dolphins in 2012 and 2013.
"New Zealand went into bat saying we musn't kill Minke
whales, which number in their thousands and are found all
over the world . . . yet in their own waters there are only
55 endemic dolphins left and they're sitting on their hands -
that's pretty embarrassing,'' she said yesterday.
Her research showed the small extensions put in place on
protected areas last November would reduce the estimated
fishing net-related deaths of Maui's dolphins from five each
year to three to four.
However, data indicated there was still substantial overlap
between New Zealand dolphins and gill net and trawl fisheries
- the main causes of Maui's dolphins deaths - and did not
reduce the risk of them being caught to zero, a move which
was needed if the species was to recover from its 55 low, she
"Population recovery is unlikely under the current protection
She would explain the situation to the sub-committee, which
in 2012 and 2013 issued strong statements recommending Maui's
dolphins be protected from fishing by-catch.
The latest presentation would be made at the same time the
commission would be discussing a United Nations' court
decision ruling Japanese whaling was not scientific and the
Japanese attempts to make it so.
Her paper outlined how the New Zealand fisheries agencies, in
an attempt to balance exploitation and conservation, had only
taken the smallest management steps they considered
"Ensuring full protection of Maui's dolphins in all areas
throughout their habitat, together with an ample buffer zone,
will minimise the risk of bycatch and maximise the chance of
population increase,'' her paper said.
Prof Slooten was hoping the full scientific committee, of 160
scientists, would discuss her paper and again release
recommendations on the protection of the Maui's dolphins.