Representatives from Whale and Dolphin Conservation have met with New Zealand’s Minister for Conservation, Eugenie Sage to discuss much-needed protection for Māui and Hector’s dolphins.
The meeting was secured as part of WDC’s campaign to save these dolphins (collectively known as New Zealand dolphins) and took place as the New Zealand government is undertaking a review of the way it manages threats to the Māui and Hector’s populations.
A public consultation is now underway and thousands of WDC supporters have already taken part. WDC will also submit its own detailed response to the proposals. WDC’s Philippa Brakes and Mike Bossley, together with dolphin biologist Associate Professor Karen Stockin, met with the Minister to discuss our contribution to the review process.
We pushed for protection of these dolphins from entanglement in fishing nets (bycatch) throughout their known habitat. We also expressed our concerns about the apparent shift in attention from bycatch to toxoplasmosis infections in the dolphins – a disease carried in cat faeces. We know that the only real solution is to remove fishing nets from the dolphins’ habitat.
The science is still out on the significance of toxoplasmosis and there are no known practical ways of dealing with this threat for the dolphins. In fact, toxoplasmosis is itself an indicator that these dolphins may be compromised by a range of different contaminants within their habitat. We urged the Minister to consider all the threats to the dolphins and their environment, but not to get too distracted, and to address the most urgent threat that we know can be managed - fishing.
We also provided evidence that the dolphins make an important contribution to the NZ tourism industry, that a high percentage of New Zealanders would be prepared to pay more for their fish in order to see these iconic dolphins protected and that the NZ tourism levy could be used to compensate fishers to bring about a more equitable solution and help ensure that Hector's dolphins tourism is sustainable.
Minister Sage listened carefully to our concerns and we are hopeful they will be taken on board when the plan is finally released.
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