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Maui's dolphin death in fishing net suppressed - NABU

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

An investigation by German conservation group NABU International revealed that New Zealand officials and fishermen have concealed the death of an extremely rare Maui’s dolphin in a commercial fishing net.

NABU International obtained a statement that describes how a Maui’s dolphin was caught in a gillnet outside the area in which the dolphins are protected from this fishing method during the 2012/13 fishing season. The incidence does not appear in the official bycatch database and was denied by Government officials and industry representatives.

"The document we secured describes that MPI officials failed to record the dolphin’s death and sought to suppress the incident by informing the eyewitness on board the fishing vessel that he "had seen nothing". NABU International became aware of a potential Maui’s dolphin bycatch incidence three years ago," explains Thomas Tennhardt, the organization’s CEO. "When we sought clarification from New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) we were assured that we were mistaken.

Less than a fifth of Maui’s dolphin habitat is protected from gillnets and just five percent from trawling. Made public, the dolphin’s death is likely to have sparked urgent demands for further fishing restrictions.

"We are deeply shocked and disappointed by these revelations, which call into question New Zealand’s sincerity over the dolphins’ protection," says Dr Barbara Maas, Head of Endangered Species Conservation at NABU International. The New Zealand Government has gone to great lengths to convince the public that Maui’s dolphins are well protected, that none are seen outside the protected area or caught in nets. Today’s news represents a serious breach of trust and does not bode well for Maui’s dolphin survival."

"Given a population of less than 50 individuals that continues to decline because of fishing, we call for the immediate extension of the protected area to cover all of the dolphins’ habitat. This corresponds to recommendations the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM) have been making repeatedly since 2012."

Fewer than 50 Maui’s dolphins survive off the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, making Maui’s the rarest marine dolphin on earth. Experts estimate that the tiny population can sustain just one human caused fatality every 10-23 years. Fisheries bycatch alone accounts for 3-4 Maui's dolphin deaths per year - more than 54 times the sustainable level.

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