In a recent blog post (Maui’s Dolphins: Swimming in a sea of all sorts of mischief?) I provided a discussion of the present Maui’s Dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori maui) saga. Which according to the Department of Conservation (DOC):
“[…] is the world’s smallest dolphin and is found only on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand and nowhere else in the world. It is New Zealand’s rarest dolphin […] with a DOC-commissioned 2012 study estimated the Maui’s dolphin population to consist of 55 with a 95% confidence interval of between 48 to 69.”
I provided an overview of the controversial science or lack thereof, the political point scoring and the general misrepresentation that has seen a genuine conservation issue, turn into one of of full blown emotive advocacy. This post argued that in the absence of robust objective science a fall back default position of fishermen culpability has been spear headed by eNGOs, the media and a number of politicians is dogmatic making ground:
“[…] the drivers behind the population decline are still not known. Consequently marine scientists, eNGOs and the media have fallen back on their usual default driver – the Fishing Industry… in particularly set nets and inshore trawls.
This established default position has given birth to a one-dimensional strategy to ‘sort out’ the decline – to bar fishermen from fishing the habitat area of the dolphins with a regimen of spatial closures and fishing gear type bans… Unfortunately with a proposed cure already in place, the plight of the dolphins departed from what could have been a collaboration of parties towards a single goal of maui dolphin preservation, to one increasingly characterised by advocacy based science, political point scoring, lobbying and the passing of culpability.”
This default position has lead to the imposition of a number of protective measures being implemented by the Government. I refer to a Management fact sheet produced by the Ministry for Primary Industries:
“For Maui dolphins, there are now a range of fishing and other restrictions that extend across the entire area where they are most commonly found. The best-available information based on sightings indicates the areas where Maui are most commonly found occur within seven nautical miles from shore. For Hector’s dolphins, the areas that pose the greatest risk to the Hector’s population are also covered by various fishing bans and restrictions. Combined, the area covered by restrictions on set netting (the fishing method known to pose the greatest risk), have increased by more than 600 percent between 2003 and 2012. Almost 15,000 square kilometres of the coastal environment is closed to set net activity.
In 2012, after a Hector’s or Maui dolphin mortality resulting from set net activity was reported in an area outside of the closures implemented by the Government, a closure out to two nautical miles offshore was put in place. DOC has also implemented five marine mammal sanctuaries surrounding key dolphin habitats.”
However to most these extensive measures are not enough. Marine scientists and eNGOs who without objective evidence, want fishing restrictions extended more (some like Slooten and eNGO’s like Forest and Bird, want it extended to the 100m contour). According to Dr. Liz Slooten (Associate Professor of Zoology at Otago University) an extension out to the 100m contour would then also provide and protect dolphin “corridors” where North Island Maui’s populations can travel south and mix with their southern cousins, and vice verser!The trouble is there is absolutely no evidence of Maui’s dolphins inhabiting areas in the deeper ‘oceanic’ areas in the vicinity of the 100m contour, there is no evidence of the existence of Hector/Maui Dolphin migration corridors exist. Furthermore it is scientifically accepted that the the two populations exist as seperate sub-species primarily because they they have not mixed for thousands of years!!! What is Slooten advocating here?
This is the quality of the science that is driving this maui-dolphin soap opera. I am still wed to the position that if we cannot attack this conundrum objectively and accurately… The North Island Hector’s Dolphin (Maui’s Dolphin) will disappear.
As I have explained above, the spatial closures have all but resigned the West Coast North Island seafood industry to the history books. New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishermen President Doug Saunders-Loder echoed this:
“The proposal to extend the set-net ban along the Taranaki coast while undertaking a review of Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins is a knee jerk reaction that does not consider the full picture. [We]want careful and successful management of this endangered species. However, this proposal puts the blame at the fishermen’s door and ignores all the other known factors including disease, pollution and predators such as sharks and orcas.”
With all the ‘j’accusory’ declarations focussed of the West Coast North Island seafood industry, I nearly fell off my chair when I was sent the link to a website the advocates for cessation of iron sand mining on West Coast North Island beaches the other day (http://kasm.org.nz/)
This website (Kiwis Against Seabed Mining) provides a map that shows the currently registered prospecting and exploration permits, as well as the continental shelf licences in New Zealand’s West Coast North Island marine environment.
When you compare this map that shows the currently registered prospecting and exploration permits, and the ones above show Maui dolphin habitats, and areas of fishing restrictions… The overlap is unmistakeable!
- Maui’s Dolphins: Swimming in a sea of all sorts of mischief? (greenfishbluefish.wordpress.com)
- Maui’s Dolphins – Backround Info (myllamaatemyhomework.wordpress.com)
- Protection extension recommended for Hector’s dolphins (nzherald.co.nz)
- ‘Resistance’ promised over sea protest law change (nzherald.co.nz)
- Better protection will save dolphins (sciencealert.com.au)
- Hector’s dolphins caught in nets (nzherald.co.nz)
- Swim-a-thon success (mauiswim.org)