Berlin – Representatives of German conservation group NABU International, led by the organisation’s Chair Olaf Tschimpke, met with former Prime Minister Helen Clark in Berlin last week to discuss the need for greater protection of Māui and Hector’s dolphins.
Ms Clark also accepted over 150,000 signatures petitioning Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Minister for Conservation Eugenie Sage, and Minister of Fisheries, Stuart Nash to fulfil an immediate ban on gill netting and trawling across the dolphins‘ habitat.
Ms Clark was in Berlin to attend the German Council for Sustainable Development, for which Mr Tschimpke acts as Vice Chair.
“We are delighted to be able to present our petition to Ms Clark in person and urge her and her party’s coalition partners to honour their pre-election promise of fully protecting the dolphins from harmful fishing methods as a matter of urgency, “said Tschimpke. “Unless this happens, Māui dolphins won’t survive.”
NABU International has been highlighting the dolphins’ dwindling numbers and actively pursued their protection for almost to a decade. Besides making representations to scientific forums, the organisation has funded and carried out Māui and Hector’s dolphin research and engaged in national and international awareness and education initiatives.
“The disastrous decline of Maui dolphins to around 50 individuals is simply a case of cause and effect,” said Dr Barbara Maas, Head of Endangered Species Conservation at NABU International. “Less than 19 percent of their west coast North Island habitat is currently free of gillnets, while trawling is prohibited in less than five percent. An immediate and complete ban of these fishing methods across all of the dolphins’ habitat and transitioning affected fishermen to dolphin-safe fishing methods or alternative livelihoods is the only way to ensure the dolphins’ survival,” said Maas.
International experts agree. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it. Like the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM), the IUCN has confirmed that the immediate and widespread expansion of existing protected areas across the dolphins’ entire habitat is essential to prevent their extinction.
“It is encouraging that two parties in New Zealand’s coalition government have pledged to do the right thing for the country’s only endemic dolphin and New Zealand’s increasingly dented environmental reputation,” said Maas. “Unless they make good on their promise now, the small window of opportunity to save these exceptionally rare marine mammals will close for good.”