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New plan to protect Maui and Hector's dolphins 'inadequate'

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Christine Rose, Campaign Manager, World Animal Protection says:

"The New Zealand Ministers for Conservation and Fisheries today (11/06/19) launched the long awaited Threat Management Plan (TMP) for Māui and Hector’s dolphins. But the consultation document is complex, when what’s needed to save the dolphins from extinction is simple, says World Animal Protection, a global science-led animal welfare organisation campaigning to save these dolphins here.

International experts and the International Whaling Commission all recommend full habitat protection for Māui and Hector’s dolphins says World Animal Protection Campaign Advisor Christine Rose. That means: protection from human threats wherever the dolphins live around most of New Zealand’s coast, out to 100m deep, in harbours, and in dolphin corridors between sub-populations, supported by full observer and camera monitoring and compliance.

However, the Threat Management Plan released is made complex, by offering a range of options and sub-options (to placate industry stakeholders)and therefore conflates direct human threats such as fishing by-catch, with indirect threats such as toxoplasmosis, a disease in the environment that is of arguably less impact and much more difficult to manage.

The TMP fails to apply a comprehensive approach to Māui and Hector’s protection - but takes a peicemeal, fragmented view of what’s in fact a contiguous habitat - the dolphins are found along the coast and out to sea, but the Plan offers partial protection in distinct parts of the coast as part of a range of options, for example, proposing banning set nets in Pegasus Bay, Kaikoura, Timaru, but trawls in Pegasus Bay, Timaru and the South Coast, but not necessarily the connecting habitat between them.It also compartmentalises Māui and Hector’s populations by failing to take a habitat wide approach- protecting the dolphin habitat completely, out to 100m deep and in harbours and corridors, - so therefore the plan fails both dolphins and the New Zealand public.

The plan proposes closures of set net and trawl fishing at variable distances from shore in different areas, but these set and trawl net restrictions don’t necessarily overlap, and despite the fact that the dolphins use their habitat determined not by distance from shore in a given area but water depth, so the proposed rules won’t be clear and simple for the public, interest groups, or consistent with dolphin habitat.

There’s a focus on the creation of Marine Mammal Sanctuaries in the new TMP but in fact these ‘Sanctuaries’ are more in name than in reality, more symbolism than substance. They don’t address fishieries impact wich falls under the Fisheries Act, not the Marine Mammal Act. But even at best, as tools to address non-fishing impacts they are inadequate because they fail to address existing permited activities (and extensions of these), and industrial activities such as pile driving in Lyttelton Harbour, currently putting Hector’s under duress.

The TMP proposes an option to mandate compliance with the Seismic Testing Code of Compliance, but suggests no change to manage oil spill risks, coastal development, pollution or climate change. These are all impacts that are more difficult to address than mortal fishing threats, but we fail to deal with those adequately either.

What’s needed to protect the dolphins from the main human impacts is simple - Protection from set and gill nets out to 100m deep everywhere the dolphins live Protection from set and gill nets in the areas between discrete habitats where the dolphins roam - the dolphin corridors, including between the North and South Islands

A prohibition on set nets within dolphin habitat harbours

Avoid, remove and properly manage other threats within these areas including seismic testing, and noisy marine activities such as pile driving and mineral extraction; Monitor and regulate activities to address risk of boat strike and habitat disturbance;

Monitoring and enforcement via a comprehensive observer and monitoring regime, on all boats fishing in Māui and Hector’s habitat.

Instead of the comprehensive approach to protection recommended by sciemtists and the IWC that covers the whole habitat from the most significant human threats - specifically fishing, the TMP fails to give a clear steer on what’s needed and the proposed response. But the solution is simple, tackle the industry and get the nets out fof the dolphin habitat now, while the dolphins still have a chance.

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