The World is Their Pearl Oyster

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Australian South Sea Pearling Industry is innovative, re-emergent and is embracing the rarity of Australian South Sea Pearls.

Over the weekend (12 November 2016) the Wall Street Journal ran the story on its website For Australia’s Pearl Farmers, the Wild Is Their Oyster.

The story (written by WSJ journalist Vera Sprothen) that charters the journey of the pearling industry over the past few years, and with a point of view that is both refreshing and rare, celebrates quality and rarity in favour of quantity and mass production:

wsj-pearls

The WSJ website also features a video that supplements the story above (click here to view it):

The video is high quality and augmented with footage from the recent National Geographic/Paspaley production “The Secret Life of Pearls.” Again it refreshingly provides some welcomed clarity with respect to an industry that isn’t well know. What is more it provides some astonishing truths about the industry in a global context:

Australia is the last place in the world where pearls are cultured in wild oysters. They are handpicked from the ocean floor by divers…”

In the last few years china has taken over the global market with cheap mass produced freshwater pearls. A single mussel, often cultivated in flooded rice paddies, can yield as many as 50 pearls, whereas a[n Australian] south sea oyster grows just one.”

Experts say that the quality of cheap pearls is proving every year. However, unlike [Australian] south sea pearls, the Chinese ones are irregularly shaped and bleached with chemicals to give them a white gloss.”

[I note that with respect to pearl quality and rarity, one chinese pearl jewellery producer points out in the video when referring to a pearl strand: “This is a big size south sea pearl from Australia. This is the perfect pearl. In every piece the colours match, the surface is very clean and the size is very big.

The video notes a sea-change in approaches by the Australian pearling industry.  The industry is innovating and branching out into the ability for consumers to feel the pearling experience, to bring the consumer closer even insofar as they can see the “grunt behind the glamour.”  The Australian Industry is also embracing their demonstrable sustainability, their harvest of wild oysters by hand, their gentle touch and minimal interaction with the environment and the harmony that is created between the pearl producer and the untamed waters of the Kimberley which is perfectly encapsulated in an Australian South Sea Pearl.

Personally I enjoyed the story. I look forward to the Australian South Sea Pearling Industry to continue to make their global mark.

“All the Glistens is not Gold”: In a World first Australian South Sea Pearls to undergo Assessment against the MSC Standard

 I note that they [the Australian Pearling Industry] are due for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification – which would certainly make Australian South Sea Pearls the ethical and responsible environmental choice … and make rare Australian pearls rarer still.

 

Drone Surveillance of the Best Kind: Stunning images of a dolphin ‘stampede’ & Grey Whales captured by ‘drone cam’!

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Another video doing the rounds is this one [Camera Equipped Drones Capture Stunning Footage of Stampeding Dolphins and Migrating Whales] where:

“Camera-equipped drones launched by Captain Dave Anderson of Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari captured stunning footage of stampeding dolphins off of Dana Point, California and migrating whales in the waters of Maui, Hawaii.”

I must say I agree with National Geographic who like seeing drones being used this way:

“Whatever you think of drone technology, this may be one use that we can all agree on.”

This birds-eye view of a  a pod of hundreds of common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) which typically live and play togther in large ‘super-pods’,  and three grey whales (Eschrichtius robustusdemonstrates what can happen when technology is innovated and adapted. 

Imagine the potential in addition to observation….. Management of marine mammals and other large fauna? Monitoring of endangered species? Population studies?

I am thinking New Zealand Sealions here 😛

Flight of the Pelican: Beak-mounted GoPro camera shows a young pelican taking its first flight!

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This video has been making the rounds…. Of course it has! It is one of the internet videos that makes one smile.

Stuff described it:

Learning to fly . . . spreading your wings . . . letting your spirit soar . . . birds give us our metaphors for realising potential. Perhaps that’s why this video, that looks right into the eyes of a pelican taking wing for the first time, feels so good.

The Back Story

According to the Greystoke Mahale Blog the young orphaned pelican [named “Big Bird”] was saved by staff at Greystoke Safaris in Tanzania after being washed ashore after a storm on Lake Tanganyika.

He [Big Bird] was young but already large, maybe 3 months old then. He couldn’t fish without his flock. This species doesn’t dive for fish, instead they corral the fish co-operating with each other and then scoop the cornered prey into their large stretchy pouches below the bill. So we have been given permission from Tanapa, the park authority to feed him…

He didn’t fly for some weeks but with encouragement he got the idea. We aren’t sure how much flying he may have already done before arriving here but he was pretty shaky in his next attempts on the beach. We would run up and down flapping our arms and simulating flight for him. He would look on curiously until one day he showed us how it was done!

"Big Bird": The orphaned pelican who was filmed from the moment the giant bird took to the air.  Source: Grey Stoke Mahale Blog [http://www.nomad-tanzania.com/blogs/greystoke-mahale/flight-of-the-big-bird]

“Big Bird”: The orphaned pelican who was filmed from the moment the giant bird first took flight.
Source: Grey Stoke Mahale Blog
http://www.nomad-tanzania.com/blogs/greystoke-mahale/flight-of-the-big-bird

Cambodian Local newspaper journalist reporting on IUU fishing beaten to death by fishermen

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I just read a couple of shocking reports that were featured in both the Premium Times and the Phnom Penh Post about a Cambodian newspaper reporter who after covering  a story on illegal fishing was killed by fishermen outside his home in the Peam Chhkork commune, in the central province of Kampong Chhnang.

According to the Phnom Penh Post:

The reporter “Suon Chan, 44, a reporter for Meakea Kampuchea (Cambodia’s Way) newspaper, was confronted by a group of 10 fishermen as he was leaving his house in Cholkiri district’s Peam Chhkork commune and was beaten unconscious by four of them; he died after being sent for medical treatment.”

Cambodian District police officer Tith Reth told the Post:

He had stones thrown at him, and was beaten with the base of a bamboo stalk by a group of people while he was walking alone out of his house in order to buy cigarettes from a shop in the village. He was hit and seriously injured on his head and neck, and lost consciousness at the scene.”

The Peam Chhkork Commune police chief Duong Vuthy told the Post that:

He suspected that Chan’s killing was motivated by his past reporting on illegal fishing, which had resulted in police crackdowns.

So far, we do not know the exact reason for this journalist’s assassination, but according to our preliminary investigation, it is related to the rancour between the victim and the group of suspects, because he used his influence as a journalist in reporting and writing about the suspects’ illegal fishing activities in the commune.”

A Cambodian fisherman stands on his boat at the Mekong river in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 17 March 2010, in this picture made available 22 March 2010. World Water Day on 22 March 2010 focuses on the needs of the 900 million people who don’t have access to safe water. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says 2.7 billion people, including 980 million children, currently lack access to proper sanitation facilities and 880 million people go without access to a basic water supply. More than half of the population in the Pacific Islands do not have access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation and more than half of the population in South Asia do not have access to proper sanitation. A staggering 50 per cent of all hospital beds in the developing world are occupied by victims of unsafe water and sanitation. EPA/MAK REMISSA.  Source: http://ki-media.blogspot.co.nz/2010/03/world-water-day-in-cambodia.html

A Cambodian fisherman stands on his boat at the Mekong river in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 17 March 2010, in this picture made available 22 March 2010. World Water Day on 22 March 2010 focuses on the needs of the 900 million people who don’t have access to safe water. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says 2.7 billion people, including 980 million children, currently lack access to proper sanitation facilities and 880 million people go without access to a basic water supply. More than half of the population in the Pacific Islands do not have access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation and more than half of the population in South Asia do not have access to proper sanitation. A staggering 50 per cent of all hospital beds in the developing world are occupied by victims of unsafe water and sanitation. EPA/MAK REMISSA.
Source: http://ki-media.blogspot.co.nz/2010/03/world-water-day-in-cambodia.html

Reporters Without Borders (RWB)  also covered this story. RWB have reiterated that reporter Suon Chan’s coverage of illegal fishing may have been the reason.

Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk urges powers at be to do something about the freedom of information in Cambodia:

Like the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media (CCIM) and the United Nations, we urge the authorities to shed light on this act of savagery, to not rule a possible link to the victim’s work, and to bring those responsible to justice as soon as possible.”

If it is confirmed that Suon Chan was killed because of his work as a journalist, this murder would constitute yet another grave violation of freedom of information in Cambodia. A thorough investigation is needed to end the tradition of impunity for those who murder journalists in Cambodia.”

According to RWB, Cambodia is notorious for the impunity enjoyed by those responsible for using violence against journalists and is ranked 143rd out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. They provided a CCIM list of 12 journalists whose murders in the past 10 years have gone unpunished.

Related articles

Maui’s Dolphin Population Status: giving facts a helping hand – a Guest post by Hasile

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GFBF’s guest poster Hasile is very interested in the plight of the New Zealand Maui’s dolphin, of which there are an estimated 55 individuals left.

For some the jury is still out on whether Maui’s dolphins constitute a new species, a sub-species, or simply an extant population isolated from the other more common South Island Hector’s dolphins. For others whether or not the Maui’s population constitutes a distinct species is an irrelevant consideration… It is accepted by all that the population is distinct, and it is critically endangered to the point where extinction is imminent if something drastic is not done.

According to the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC):

Maui’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori mauiis 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 […]

In 2012 a DOC-commissioned study estimated the Maui’s dolphin population to consist of 55 with a 95% confidence interval of between 48 to 69. The estimate is for individuals aged more than 1 year (i.e. this excludes calves of under a year). This small population of dolphins is thought to have been isolated from their more-numerous relatives, South Island Hector’s dolphin, for thousands of years. Maui’s dolphin used to be known as North Island Hector’s dolphin. But research showed the North and South Island dolphins are separate sub-species that are physically and genetically distinct from each other.”

However like so many critical situations the search consensus on a way forward with respect to saving the Maui’s dolphin has been hindered, by politics, finger-pointing, and mistrust. I highlighted in a previous post in April last year (Maui’s Dolphins: Swimming in a sea of all sorts of mischief?) that the plight of the Maui’s dolphin has seen

“...sustained pressure on the Government by eNGOs,the Media, the public and of course opposition politicians who are  using the campaign as leverage to garner political points at the expense of the Government. This pressure has been squarely placed on the Commercial Fishing Industry, who beset on all sides by sectors pointing accusatory fingers, protest their perceived culpability.”

Often the campaign has been theatrical… There was even a funeral march in 2012… where protestors marched through the Auckland Electorate of  Kumeu-Huapai to New Zealand Prime Minister John Key’s electorate office in Helensville demanding urgent action to save the Maui’s dolphin. The Rodney Times reported that the “mourners” included Rodney Labour candidate and former Rodney and Auckland Regional Council representative Christine Rose of Huapai who has long used the issue of protection of the critically endangered dolphin as political leverage.

According to Hasile central figures have manipulated scientific data for the purpose of controlling the debate. In an Article (below) sent to GFBF in December 2012 Hasile charters the statistical drift of the Maui’s dolphin scientific information.

A visual education tool about the state of the critically endangered Maui’s Dolphin and fishing-related threat management options currently under review by the NZ Ministry of Primary Resources.  Source: http://dumpark.com/mauis/

A visual education tool about the state of the critically endangered Maui’s Dolphin and fishing-related threat management options currently under review by the NZ Ministry of Primary Resources. CLICK TO VIEW EDUCATION TOOL. Source: http://dumpark.com/mauis/

A Case of Giving Facts on Maui’s Dolphin a Helping Hand (by Hasile)

Cephalorhynchus hectori. Photograph by James Shook. Source: Wiki Commons

Cephalorhynchus hectori. Photograph by James Shook.
Source: Wiki Commons

Increasingly, as technology becomes more sophisticated, reliable and adaptable, the terms of access to natural resources should be ideally based on robust and coherent science on the effects of that extraction. 

Unfortunately, there is an apparent trend, based variously on academic niche and security, international scientific status, ideological attitudes to humanity’s place on the planet, the need to simplify and generalise for popular opinion and a central belief that commercial use of any and every resource inevitably leads to its overexploitation and environmental degradation.

This trend can lead to scientific literature which is less reliable than it ought to be.

The Background of Otago University’s Liz Slooten

Dr. Liz Slooten, an Otago University professor of Zoology, called for greater supervision aboard trawling boats. “The numbers of observers on the boats are far too low.” Source: See http://www.newswire.co.nz/2012/04/protesters-demand-end-to-gill-net-killing-of-maui-dolphins/

An article in Endangered Species Research by Elisabeth Slooten could be a case where factors have led to a mismatch of the empirical data with the conclusions reached.  Dr Slooten argues that data shows what is unquestionably a severely endangered animal sub-species is not only under threat from fishing activities, but that threat has increased over the years, rather than diminished.

Dr Slooten has devoted most of her professional life to the study of Hector’s dolphins.  It is no exaggeration that she was traumatised seeing the effects on the Hector’s dolphins of the introduction of monofilament nets some decades ago.

The 1 August 2012 issue of Life and Leisure retells, in almost folk lore terms, how she spent half of 1984 on a VW Kombi van tour of the South Island coast in search of Hector’s dolphins with Steve Dawson.  She is quoted at her first sight of a Hector’s as, “A sort of ‘Dr Livingstone I presume’ moment.”

Dr Slooten is an Associate Professor in the Zoology Department at Otago University and is described by the University as ‘the foremost authority’ on Hector’s (Cephalorhynchus hectori) and Maui’s subspecies (C. hectori maui).’ She teaches ecology, statistics, risk analysis and a MSc course on marine mammals. She and Dr Dawson have supervised several MSc and PhD projects on the species. They have published more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific publications.

In 1992, Drs Slooten and Dawson launched the New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust for research and conservation. In 2004, they were awarded the Royal Society’s Sir Charles Fleming Award for their contribution to conservation science.

The University of Otago website states Dr Slooten ‘represents New Zealand at the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission’ and that she, and Dr Dawson, are ‘members of the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group and regularly advise government.’

Dr Slooten predicts an international trade boycott of New Zealand seafood products, if the restrictions on fishing in what she claims are Maui’s dolphin sub-species habitats, are not increased.  In the Taranaki Daily News on 17th July 2012 she said,

Logically it doesn’t make sense for people to boycott hoki, for instance, because dolphins aren’t being killed in the hoki industry but that is the next step.  Do we want to be seen as dolphin killers overseas?

She also told BBCNews on 10th June 2013;

If Maui’s dolphins went extinct that would be very bad in terms of our international reputation.  Obviously New Zealand is known as a clean green country and that reputation is very important to exports, to tourism and in general to our international reputation.

Dr Slooten has written and expressed views on sea mammals other than dolphins. The Final Advice Paper on New Zealand Sea Lions by DOC and MPI in 2012, was critical of Dr Slooten’s suggestions for measuring the frequency of sea lion captures in Sea Lion Escape Devices by blocking their escape, stating;

 The Ministry does not support the proposal advanced by Elisabeth Slooten to cover the escape hole of SLEDs. This would need to be conducted over several years to get a robust estimate of strike rate and would result in deliberate drowning of sea lions.

In April 2013, Otago University Press published Drs Slooten and Dawson’s book, Dolphins Down Under: Understanding the New Zealand DolphinThis book is a dolphin watcher’s handbook, complete with photos of Hector’s Dolphins at Banks Peninsular, which she named ‘Zorro’, Huffer’, Biggus Nickus’ and ‘Rooster’.

In December 2013 Dr Slooten chaired the Organising Committee of the 20th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, which was hosted by Otago University.  These conferences are rarely held outside North America. Dr Dawson chaired the Scientific Programme Committee and Dr Slooten was also on that committee. Dr. Slooten and Dawson delivered a keynote presentation on the conference opening morning, ‘A flagship of NZ conservation is foundering’.

Dolphin Reproduction Research

Cover of Raewyn Peart's 2013 book 'The Dolphins of Aotearoa' Source: http://beattiesbookblog.blogspot.co.nz/2013/11/dolphins-of-aotearoa.html

Cover of Raewyn Peart’s 2013 book ‘The Dolphins of Aotearoa’
Source: http://beattiesbookblog.blogspot.co.nz/2013/11/dolphins-of-aotearoa.html

The Otago University promotion of ‘Dolphins Down Under: Understanding the New Zealand Dolphin’ stated that Dr Slooten ‘researches and publishes on reproductive and population biology…’

A review of Dr Slooten’s papers on Hector’s type dolphins, as listed by Otago University on its website, nonetheless does not reveal publications exhibiting this expertise in any but a most limited sense.  This work, listed as published since 2006, is confined to various forms of observation which avoids actual or protracted contact with the dolphins.

The limits to what is acceptable and relevant science on Hector’s dolphin in New Zealand appear to have thus been set by its most prominent researcher.  For example, in ‘Dolphins Down Under’ (page 63) Dr Slooten objects to satellite tagging Hector’s type dolphins, on the basis that such attaching such tags would alter their behaviour and also would endanger the dolphins. She added that such tagging was unnecessary anyway, given that that she knows and can recognise all of the Hector’s dolphins around Banks Peninsular.

In Raewyn Peart’s 2013 book ‘Dolphins of Aotearoa’ she writes (page 254) that Drs Slooten and Dawson in 2003 opposed the use of satellite tags on Maui’s since it was ‘intrusive’.

The only exception to non-intrusive observation research currently into the Hector’s species in New Zealand is laboratory analysis of the DNA composition of individuals of the species, with skin samples being darted off the dolphins.  The lure of producing interesting pie graphs in learned papers on genetic variation among the Hectors and Maui’s, was obviously too much, even for Dr Slooten to prevent.

The DNA work by itself has some interest in establishing; individual identification, whether Hector’s and Maui’s breed, population spread or whether there is sufficient genetic diversity to prevent inbreeding depression.  The work though is largely of academic interest and has, at best, a marginal utility of actually being used to protect the species from decline or extinction.

Investigations into the nature, identification and duration of Hector’s dolphin oestrus for example, which would be a vital precursor to assisted reproduction of Maui’s dolphins, have not been carried out. The viewpoint of New Zealand’s announced foremost expert on such dolphins, is that such research is neither necessary nor acceptable.

Indeed Dr Barbara Maas, the London based Head of International Species for NABU International, mocked the idea of assisted reproduction in her presentation on Hector’s type dolphins at the Marine Mammal Conference in Dunedin, though she provided neither reasons nor basis for her derision.

DNA Evidence of Distribution

In the Taranaki Daily News on 20th July 2012, Liz Slooten, wrote that the southernmost confirmed sighting of a Maui’s dolphin was one from which a biopsy sample was taken in Wellington Harbour.

Ten days later, on 30th July, Scott Gallacher, Deputy Director-General of the Ministry for Primary Industries, replied in the same publication, writing  that there were claims made by ‘some commentators’,  about Maui’s dolphins that were ‘misleading or incorrect’. He referred to the Wellington biopsy sample and pointed out,

The only biopsy sample taken from a dolphin in Wellington Harbour was that of a Hector’s, and that happened in 2009.”

Indeed Dr Slooten is justified in acknowledging the existence of such biopsy samples – there is even a Maui’s sample taken in Wellington which may have been collected  back in 1873.

Fishing and Dolphins

Fishing Vessels docked at the Tauranga Waterfront, New Zealand. Source QFSE Media, Wiki Commons

Fishing Vessels docked at the Tauranga Waterfront, New Zealand. Source QFSE Media, Wiki Commons

In the Endangered Species Research article Dr Slooten analyses the efficacy of restrictions on fishing on the three populations of Hector’s dolphins Cephalorhynchus hectori in South Island waters and that of the Maui’s subspecies C. hectori maui which inhabits an indeterminate range (albeit with a well-known core) in the waters off the west coast of the North Island.

Dr Slooten refers to the Maui’s habitat as WCNI (West Coast North Island).  Four of South Island originating Hector’s, two alive and two dead, have been identified in recent years within the Maui’s population in West Coast North Island (WCNI).  Thus Cephalorhynchus found off the West Coast of the North Island are not all Maui’s.

Marine Mammal Sanctuaries. The marine mammal sanctuaries layer has been updated to include the marine mammal sanctuaries (as they were legislated in October 2008).

Marine Mammal Sanctuaries. The marine mammal sanctuaries layer has been updated to include the marine mammal sanctuaries (as they were legislated in October 2008).

Dr Slooten’s position is clear.  She states that she believes that “bycatch in fisheries is the most serious threat to both species, (sic) …

However her views on the efficacy of banning fishing, to save Maui’s from extinction, are ambivalent.  She was cited, 30, April 2012, as stating,

…natural processes could take them away. If we stopped catching them in fishing nets tomorrow we would still hold our breath … so we really need to pull out all the stops or soon we’ll go past the point of no return.”

She details the introduction of various targeted fishing area restriction measures in the years since 1988 and finds favour with the results.  But she still asserts that the overall New Zealand Cephalorhynchus population is in decline. In relation to by catch of Hector’s species in the period since 2008, she states,

Formal and informal reports from the fishing industry include NZ dolphin deaths on the SCSI and WCNI”.

This implies a plural culpability in both areas.

According to the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) Hector’s dolphin incident database; in which any formal report would be displayed, there have been five Hector’s type dolphins found and examined in the period since 2008 on the West Coast of the North Island (WCNI).  The post mortems for four of the dolphins describe no indications of fishing being the cause of death.  There is only one fatality attributed to fishing recorded – that of the Hector’s type taken by fisherman Ian McDougall off Cape Egmont in January 2012.

So the Slooten statement, based on one capture, is technically correct.  There has been one formal report of a Hector’s type dolphin killed by fishing in the WCNI since 2008.

In ‘Dolphins Down Under: Understanding the New Zealand Dolphin’ (page 70) Dr Slooten’s inclination to expand a singular event into a whole series of occurrences can be seen when she states that there have been recent ‘sightings and deaths in gillnets off the Taranaki coastline’.  There certainly have been many sightings along this coast, and other coasts.  DOC encourages these reports.

But [one fact remains], other than the one in 2012, there have been no mortalities which could be [directly] attributed to fishing recorded in Taranaki waters for nearly a quarter of a century.

Use of DoC Data on Fishing Induced Mortality Maui’s Dolphins

Maui's dolphin extinction scenario - Under current protection levels, Maui’s dolphins will become practically extinct by 2030 as a result of fishing. Green bars: Historic population status, orange bars: prognosis at an annual decline of 9% due to fishing. Source: http://www.hectorsdolphins.com/

Maui’s dolphin extinction scenario – Under current protection levels, Maui’s dolphins will become practically extinct by 2030 as a result of fishing. Green bars: Historic population status, orange bars: prognosis at an annual decline of 9% due to fishing.
Source: http://www.hectorsdolphins.com/

In Endangered Species Research (Page 126), Dr Slooten, explains (under the subtitle of ‘Strandings and reported bycatch’) that she is using information from ‘the DOC’s database (database) of strandings and bycatch’, mainatining that the value of the information on the database as ‘at best, a qualitative (i.e. theoretical) indication of dolphin mortality’.  This is a sound reservation.

However at page 127, she refers to the same ‘qualitative’ information:

“In the far north and far south, bycatch increased slightly over time. For WCNI, there was 1.00 dolphin death (sic) yr from 1970 to 2008 and 1.33 dolphin deaths yr from 2009 to 2012.  The protected area off the WCNI was originally put in place in 2003.  Therefore it is useful to compare the periods before and after 2003.  Again, an average of 1.00 dolphin deaths yr from 1970 to 2002, increases slightly to 1.11 yr from 2003 to 2012.”

This paragraph is problematic.  Either Dr Slooten is misrepresenting the figures of deaths attributed to fishing by DOC in its database;  or, she is, without clearly stating this, assuming and conveying that all reported Maui’s dolphin mortality through the years is attributable to fishing activity.

First, lets look at the empirical evidence of Maui’s dolphin fishing caused mortality. The DOC database has reported up to quarterly in detail since 1st July 2008.  It reports by possible cause of death, but not by date, for the period 1921 – 19th March 2008. It reports five WCNI mortalities since 1 July 2008, and 40 in the period 1921 – 19th March 2008. Furthermore of these five dolphin mortalities since 1st July 2008, only one, the Ian McDougall capture in January 2012, is attributed as a fishing caused mortality. Of the other four, two were Hector’s and two were Maui’s.

Of course, it is not only possible, but likely in earlier instances, that there was some fishing mortality which was not attributed.  Thus, quite correctly, Dr Slooten acknowledges her analysis to be qualitive only.

Conversely it should also be noted that the mortalities listed as attributed to fishing, may in fact not be due to fishing at all, since DOC describes some as these as ‘fishing’ being only the ‘possible’ cause.

Of the total of 40, in the period 1921 – 2008, only five mortalities in WCNI are described as showing signs of fishing being the cause of death. They are variously listed as; ‘net marks – not determinate’, ‘possible entanglement’ (2X), ‘probable entanglement’ and ‘known entanglement’.

The DOC/MPI Sept 2012 Consultation Paper (Paper) states six such mortalities, with three stated as ‘known entanglements’ including the Ian McDougall capture in 2012.

The Paper’s total of 46 mortalities 1921 – 2012 is inconsistent with the database which also lists 46 mortalities, but database includes one beachcast off Dargaville in 2013 and so not on the Paper list.

Neither the database nor the Paper break down the 1921 – 2008 tally by years, only possible causes of mortality, and so, from either the online DOC incident database or Consultation Paper, any sub periods of 1921 to 2008 cannot be compared directly with the year groupings of Dr Slooten’s figures.

In contrast any figures Dr Slooten uses between 2008 and 2013 can be directly compared with the public DOC site database.

However the information is even more confused with DOC providing to some parties a more detailed list (list) of the pre 1st July 2008 mortality, including the dates of mortalities against possible causes of death.  The list allows for a direct comparison of Dr Slooten’s figures prior to 2008 with those DOC has. The additional list discloses, for instance, that the first possibly fishing attributed mortality was in 1997, a ‘possible entanglement’. Presumably Dr Slooten has this list.  She would need it, or a similar source, to be able to identify breakdowns by different year groups prior to 2008, though she makes no mention of doing do.

The data from all three DOC sources is adopted in the table below, with the list derived data used for groups of years to provide the comparison with the Slooten figures.  Prior to 1970 there were four mortalities reported on the list.  For the period 2003 – 2008, where the list contains six entries, there are no fishing related deaths.

However the list, while detailed, is complicated. It includes an auxiliary  tally, citing 44 mortalities 1921 – 2012, against the on-line database list of 45 (plus one in 2013) and the Paper’s 46 for the same 1921 – 2012 period. These discrepancies in these data from DOC, have nothing but a marginal bearing on the inaccuracy or otherwise of the use of any or all DOC data by Dr Slooten.  She has only stated one source of her figures, that which is, ironically, the lowest of the three DOC totals.

Dr Slooten has set out various periods between 1970 and 2012.  This removes four of the pre 1970 deaths listed on the DOC list.

WCNI Hector’s type dolphin mortality, and mortality attributed to fishing; by DOC and by Slooten 1970 - 2012

WCNI Hector’s type dolphin mortality, and mortality attributed to fishing; by DOC and by Slooten 1970 – 2012

Apart from the matter of how the total of a 43 year period could include a decimal point, let alone two, the Slooten figures for the two time breakdowns closely agree; at 44.3 apparently fishing related deaths from 1970 to 2012 when divided at 2002-03, and 44.32 when the tally is divided at 2008-09.

They nonetheless exceed all of DOC’s on line database register estimations, the additional more detailed list and the discussion paper tally, whether counting total deaths, or the ones Dr Slooten may be attributing to fishing.

All three DOC sources produce a tally of potentially fishing related mortality since 1970 as six.  Dr Slooten appears to state the tally is 33.

The DOC data describes 10 Hector’s type dolphin deaths on WCNI in the ten years 2003 – 2012 from all causes.  Of these, DOC attributes only one mortality to fishing and that one was well outside the restricted fishing zone and by MPI’s admission was ‘about as likely as not’ to have been a Hector’s in the Discussion Paper.

It is possible that Dr Slooten relies on the ‘open’ diagnosis in the post mortems as displayed on the database for two Hector’s type, (November 2010 and October 2011) as suspect fishing mortalities.  However the post mortems as specific as to the lack of fishing by-catch injury and are open in their conclusions simply over disease analysis which has now been carried out though not entered in to the incident database.

In contrast, to this DOC figure of one, Dr Slooten appears to claim 11.1 deaths of Hector’s type from fishing in the ten year period 2003 – 2012.

A proposition that Dr Slooten is trying to cite by-catch deaths, and not all reported deaths, is therefore completely unsubstantiated by the data.

Astonishing as it is, this is the clear interpretation put upon Dr Slooten’s paper by Dr Barbara Maas, in her submission to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission, ‘Science-based management of New Zealand’s Maui’s dolphins – Scientific paper for IWC’, SC/65a/SMO6′.

Dr Maas states, at page 4 of the report,

“Since the 2008 protection measures were introduced, the number of stranded and reported bycatch cases has increased slightly (Slooten 2013). Between 1970 and 2008 an average of 1.00 entangled Maui’s dolphin was recorded per year. This figure increased marginally to 1.33 dolphin deaths per annum between 2009 and 2012.”

Accordingly, a maximum of six Maui’s deaths since 1970, for which evidence held by DOC exists, that the dolphin is both Maui’s and fishing might be responsible for its death, is now reported by Dr Maas to the IWC as a total of at least 52 Maui’s deaths confirmed as caused by fishing in the same period.

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New Zealand: Hoki Quota owners advocate an increase in the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC)

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Sealord and Talley’s are pushing for a 20,000-ton increase in the commercial catch of hoki for the 2013-14 fishing year beginning on 1 October. Their claim is justified by the robust status of this  fishery resourceThe two seafood giants from New Zealand are also predicting a bright future, with potential growth in investment and jobs, thanks to an improving exchange rate for exporters. Story by By Natalia Real at FIS.

Sealord holds about 30 per cent of hoki quota and Talley’s about 20 per cent, while Sanford owns about 20 per cent.

For the past several years, the total allowable commercial catch (TACC) has been 130,000, with the aforementioned companies and the representative Deepwater Group all advocating a conservative approach to protect fisheries, Fairfax NZ Newsreports.

Last week, the Ministry for Primary Industries released the latest comprehensive scientific assessment of the state of New Zealand’s fisheries, unveiling seven years of increases in hoki stocks and signalling a TACC increase; also mentioning the “substantially improved” orange roughy stock on the Chatham Rise.

Sealord general manager of fishing, Doug Paulin, said the hoki TACC could be increased by 30,000 tonnes:

However, we believe the right thing is to be conservative. In this case, an increase of 20,000 tonnes is considered conservative and sustainable. On the back of believing that the hoki fishery will continue to improve, we’ll continue to manage it conservatively, but within that, in future years, there’s still potential for increases as the science supports it.”

Paulin points out that the Sealord Nelson wet fish factory has already started processing hoki.

It’s looking pretty good. The fish are on the West Coast, they’re reasonably good-sized and relatively early this year. We’re pretty happy about it.”

The orange roughy TACC might also go up and conservative management of the stock was leading towards Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, which would make it the first orange roughy population in the world to achieve this.

Amatal Explorer (Talleys)

Amatal Explorer (Talleys)

Talley’s Nelson division chief executive Tony Hazlett said a 20,000-ton hoki increase was appropriate.

We’re really happy with the way the hoki fishery is at the moment, and the future is looking really promising. Further, the recent fall in the value of the NZD to under USD 0.80 has also been welcome news.

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The Risk to Maui’s Dolphins apportioned to West Coast North Island Fishermen, while Coastal Marine Mining Companies continue Onward!

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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.”

Map indicating the nature and extent of the interim measures in place for the purpose of protecting Maui's dolphins https://zen.nzherald.../03112MAUI1.pdf

Map indicating the nature and extent of the interim measures in place for the purpose of protecting Maui’s dolphins
https://zen.nzherald…/03112MAUI1.pdf

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!

Distribution of Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins [which includes 'corridoes' that allow for Maui's to move south to mix with Southern Hector's Populations????] Source: http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/what-we-do/campaigns/mauis-and-hectors-dolphins/hectors-dolphins-distribution

Distribution of Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins [which includes ‘corridoes’ that allow for Maui’s to move south to mix with Southern Hector’s Populations????]
Source: http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/what-we-do/campaigns/mauis-and-hectors-dolphins/hectors-dolphins-distribution

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.

Fishermen Culpability???

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.

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. Source: http://kasm.org.nz/permits/permit-map/

Map illustrating currently registered prospecting and exploration permits, as well as the continental shelf licences in New Zealand’s West Coast North Island marine environment.
Source: http://kasm.org.nz/permits/permit-map/

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!

Hector's dolphins have a unique rounded dorsal...

Hector’s dolphins have a unique rounded dorsal fin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)