The New Zealand Government should take immediate actions
to eliminate bycatch of Maui dolphins, the International
Whaling Commission scientific committee has recommended.
The calls come after University of Otago Assoc Prof Liz
Slooten presented a report to the committee in Slovenia last
month critical of the Government's measures to protect the
It was the third year in a row that the International Whaling
Commission (IWC) scientific committee had discussed the need
to better protect the critically endangered Maui's dolphin.
In its report released this week, the committee emphasised
the New Zealand Government's measures ''fell significantly
short of those previously recommended'' by the IWC last year.
''The committee reiterates its extreme concern about the
continued decline of such a small population, as the
human-induced death of even one dolphin would increase the
extinction risk for this subspecies.''
Rather than seeking further scientific evidence, it
reiterated the Government needed to take immediate action to
eliminate bycatch of the dolphins.
The committee recommended extending the area protecting the
dolphins to 20 nautical miles off-shore, including harbours,
and banning both gill and trawl nets in that area.
Prof Slooten said, via email from Egypt where she is working,
she could tell the IWC was losing patience from the fact it
had asked New Zealand to set specific targets and timelines
for protection, and had asked the Government to report back
each year until the problem has been solved.
As the IWC pointed out, it was perfectly clear what the
problem was, she said. Both gill and trawl nets were known to
kill dolphins and with a population of only 55 the country
could not afford to kill another one.
''We simply need to have the political will to solve it.
''I expect Labour and Greens to commit to implementing the
IWC recommendations. Then, hopefully, something might happen
after the election.''
The committee's recommendations would go to the IWC for
consideration in September.
WWF-NZ marine species advocate Milena Palka said if New
Zealand was to continue to have credible standing at the IWC
when it called for protection of whales then it needed to
listen to it on Maui's dolphins as well.
''The world is watching us; we need to do the right thing and
save these dolphins.''
Conservation Minister Nick Smith said on Radio New Zealand
he did not accept that not enough was being done.
''Set-netting was the biggest risk; we've banned it where the
Maui's dolphin exists and I simply challenge the
International Whaling Commission and others ... show us the
Green Party oceans spokesman Gareth Hughes said the Green
Party would comply with the IWC's recommendations.
''Saving the Maui's is about protecting the world's smallest
dolphin, but it's also about protecting our national brand
and exports,'' Mr Hughes said.
Labour's Conservation spokeswoman Ruth Dyson said there were
growing calls for an international boycott on buying New
Zealand fish because fishing practices threatened the future
of Maui's dolphins.
She said Labour supported putting the IWC recommendation in
''That means the fishing industry should also be supported to
transition to sustainable fishing practices, rather than just
being left in the lurch.''
Fisheries Inshore New Zealand chief executive Dr Jeremy
Helson said the industry was focused on remedies that would
work in the real world.
Restrictions imposed on fishing in 2003, and extended in
2008, 2012 and 2013, protected the dolphins from accidental
''There have been no confirmed mortalities of Maui's
attributed to fishing since 2003. We now need to address
other issues placing these animals at risk.''