However the present Government seems to have no interest in anything but making money. Not only does it want to mine coal (lignite at that!) on conservation land, it recently voted against doing anything more to help save our delightful Maui's dolphin from extinction. These dolphin are unique to N Island, New Zealand and the threat is both unnecessary and, of course, man-made. They have a cousin in S Island. Hector's dolphin, a cheerful and confiding little animal that bustles over to spend time with a yacht in its area, puffing and diving companionably, even when you sit at anchor:
Even the Hector's dolphin is hardly flourishing, but its poor cousin is now down to probably no more than 55 males and more are dying every year. In nets.
I have personally written to members of the Government several times about this issue, but have only ever received an automatic reply. Our Prime Minister is also Minister of Tourism. NZ sells itself on its 'clean, green' image. You'd think that if nothing else, the fact that we might be the first country since China (see my earlier blog) to allow a cetacean to become extinct, would give him cause to think. Apparently not. If, after reading this, you feel as I do, please drop him a line and ask him to get his act together: J.Key@ministers.govt.nz
Maui’s dolphin is listed as critically endangered and the Government itself identified that 95% of the threat of Maui’s dolphin mortalities comes from fishing-related death, namely entanglement in nets (including set nets and trawl nets). Mining and oil activities, pollution, vessel traffic and disease constitute the remainder of the threat, on a much lower scale but still significant given the precarious state of the population.
Since the recent, alarming, population estimate there have been further deaths of Maui’s and/or Hector’s dolphins – including entanglement in fishing gear, and dead dolphins found outside the area previously protected. Reporting of dolphin deaths in fishing nets, with or without observers onboard, indicates that only around 1% of these deaths go reported. In other words, these may represent just the tip of the iceberg.
The International Whaling Commission's scientific committee, at its 2012 meeting, noted that bycatch in gillnet and trawl fisheries is the most serious threat to these dolphins, and recommended “the immediate implementation of the proposal by the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries to extend the North Island protected area ..."
In September, a similar statement was made at World Conservation Congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. In a vote, the IUCN passed an almost unanimous motion urging New Zealand urgently to protect Maui’s dolphin. There were 576 country and NGO votes in favour of the motion, and two votes against it. Each country member has two votes, and the two "no" votes belonged to New Zealand. Can you believe it? This country, that depends on green tourism voted against 576 other countires and organisations who wanted to protect our own dolphin! It's beyond madness.
New Zealand has brought species like the black robin and the kakapo back from the brink of extinction and is rightly proud of these efforts. And yet now we are complacently contemplating the extinction of yet another unique species. It's incomprehensible.