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New Zealand Marine Wildlife Under Threat – Part 1: Maui’s Dolphin

By September 30, 2013No Comments

Commentary By Tracy Brown (Sea Shepherd Auckland Coordinator)


Maui’s dolphin
Photo: Steve Dawson / Sea Shepherd

The Maui’s Dolphin will disappear from Planet Ocean unless urgent action is taken. In 2012, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) requested New Zealand to immediately take all possible measures to save the Maui’s Dolphin. Since then, only one of the five crucial recommendations has been implemented. International and local frustrations continue to grow because of /New Zealand Government’s political apathy towards effective legislation necessary for the survival of the Maui’s Dolphin.  Efforts so far merely prolong the process of extinction.

In 2013, the IWC Scientific Committee concluded that the Maui’s Dolphin would become functionally extinct in less than 20 years. Dr Helene Marsh, representing over 2000 scientists from the Society for Marine Mammalogy has, over the past five years, written several letters to New Zealand’s Prime Ministers encouraging decisive action and stimulate the leadership in marine conservation that the world expects of New Zealand. Experts estimate that five Maui’s Dolphin die each year in fishing gear – removing approximately 9% of the current population (of which there are between 54-79 individuals over the age of one).

Entanglement in set nets remains the number one cause of Maui’s dolphin deaths.  Their habitat is under additional pressure through applications for seabed mining and deep sea oil drilling. The Department of Conservation has opened a public consultation phase to provide a small extension to 7 nautical miles for the set nets ban from Pariokaiwa point to Waiwhakaiho River.  This is a minor change but a first step that needs to be made.

Some might say that public opinion in regards to saving the Maui’s Dolphin has been ignored, and that people might begin to suffer from ‘petition and submission fatigue’, but there is hope in collective pressure – from the local and international community. Regardless of the cynical legislative process that delays conservation policy, shepherds of marine wildlife will not falter in their  efforts to establish protection.  This is what needs to be done:

  • Ban set net in entire harbour, from Pariokariwa Point to Hawera (4nm) and in all harbours and within the 100m depth zone.
  • Ban Trawling from Kaipara to Kawhia Harbour (4nm), in all harbours and within the 100m depth zone.
  • Establish a protected corridor between the North and South Islands.


Mahatma Gandhi said that “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”

The world expects this greatness from New Zealand

Please sign the E-Submission from Forest & Bird (New Zealand’s largest and oldest independent conservation organisation) or write your own (see information below) before October 10 – the New Zealand Dolphin needs your help.

If you would like to write your own submission and find out more about the consultation process please visit the Department of Conservation (DoC) website.

Check out this great interactive tool to visually explore threats and protection options for the Maui’s Dolphin:


Maui’s Dolphin mother and calf
Photo: Steve Dawson / Sea Shepherd

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