Significant victory in fight to save native New Zealand dolphins

Jessica Cartwright

Jessica Cartwright

A nationwide ban on drift netting is among a raft of new, stricter fishing and environmental protections announced as part of a Government plan to protect endangered New Zealand native dolphins.

These changes, following the Threat Management Plan review, are a significant victory in the fight to save the critically endangered Māui, and endangered Hector’s dolphins.

The announcement follows a long campaign led by Convergence client, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC). WDC is the leading global charity dedicated to the conservation and protection of whales and dolphins.

Convergence worked with WDC on its nationwide campaign and call to action, #SaveNZDolphins. Our strategy involved generating a 10,000-strong petition on ActionStation – an independent community campaigning organisation – calling for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Government to take immediate action for New Zealand’s dolphins.

We also led a social media campaign and published full-page advertisements in the Dominion Post newspaper, and its online platform, to raise government and public awareness.

Hector’s and Māui dolphins are found only in New Zealand and the single greatest threat to the dolphins is fishing nets. Around 110 to 150 native dolphins die in set nets every year and a similar number in trawls. In the 1970s there were around 50,000 Hector’s dolphins, now not much more than 10,000 remain, and for Māui dolphins it’s much worse, with fewer than 60 left in our waters.

WDC says it congratulates the New Zealand Government for putting in place stricter fishing and environmental protections. While the charity welcomes the good news, it says there is still significant risks to New Zealand dolphins.

“This is a big win for dolphins and for New Zealand’s reputation as a green nation. WDC has campaigned for Māui and Hector’s dolphins for over twenty years and, while this decision doesn’t go as far as we had hoped, it is a big leap forward,” says WDC spokesperson, Mike Bossley. “This eleventh-hour reprieve gives the Māui dolphin a fighting chance to come back from the brink of extinction.”

Convergence is proud to work with a global charity that is campaigning for the environmental sector in New Zealand and is willing to voice its concerns at a national and government level.

The new changes include:

  • A nationwide ban on drift netting
  • An extension of current set-net fishing closures, and the creation of new areas closed to set-netting
  • An extension of the existing area closed to trawl fishing off the west coast of the North Island
  • Increased marine mammal protection areas across the West Coast of the North Island and around the Banks Peninsula
  • Reducing the risks from seismic surveying and seabed mining by prohibiting new permits in marine mammal protection areas

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