Māui dolphin and International Whaling Commission

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has released a report saying New Zealand needs to give much better protection to the critically endangered Māui dolphin, especially from set netting and trawl fishing.

There is no dispute that the Māui dolphin population is at a very low level. Māui dolphin are critically endangered. We cannot let them decline any further. The Government is committed to ensuring the long-term health and viability of these treasured marine mammals.

The consequences of too little action too late are obvious with the Chinese river dolphin going extinct and Mexican vaquita porpoise being virtually extinct.

The work and recommendations of the IWC are important and I acknowledge the IWC’s call for immediate, decisive action to remove fishing nets from Māui habitat. I agree that we need to do more to protect Māui dolphin.

After the shocking revelation that five Hector’s dolphins died in a single net off the South Island coast in February, Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash and I committed to the following immediate actions which will help both Māui and Hector’s dolphins:

  • Prioritise the development of a new Threat Management Plan for Māui and Hector’s dolphins
  • Review the use of set nets in a bid to reduce or phase out their use.
  • Consider extending set net bans
  • Encourage voluntary closures of certain fisheries to set nets such as those recently put in place by commercial set netters to protect the hoihō/yellow eyed penguin off Southland.
  • Ensure good monitoring.

Work on the review of the Hector’s and Māui Dolphin Threat Management Plan has begun. It will deal with the cumulative threats facing Māui and Hector’s dolphins. Consultation meetings are planned for June.

The results of new research about the absolute risk estimates to Māui dolphins are expected to be available in July. This will help inform the review of the Threat Management Plan.
Ensuring that the plan review is completed by early 2019 is a priority.

Some 6,200 square kms of sea are closed to set netting and another 1702 squ. kms are closed to trawl fishing to protect Māui dolphin. Extending these areas to the whole of the Māui dolphin habitat is an option that needs serious consideration in the plan review.

The Threat Management Plan includes other measures to protect Māui dolphin from the activities such as seismic survey operations and seabed mining.

The review will incorporate any new information and data from recent research and identify what’s needed to ensure that existing, and any new, protective measures are effective.
Māui and Hector’s dolphin are a taonga species. I recognise the need for urgent action.