I urge the New Zealand Government to give proper protection to the critically endangered Māui dolphin by:
- Extending their marine mammal sanctuary refuge to cover the dolphin's full habitat range;
- Banning net fishing, seabed mining, petroleum exploration and drilling from within the sanctuary;
- Banning seismic testing from within 20 nautical miles of the sanctuary's boundary.
New Zealand’s critically endangered Māui dolphin is the world's smallest dolphin and it’s on the brink of extinction. The tiny dolphins are found only in New Zealand coastal waters and are under threat from net fishing and oil exploration and drilling. The most recent population estimate indicates that only about 55 adult dolphins remain.
Maui’s dolphins are particularly vulnerable to gill nets, set nets and trawling which can entangle them and cause drowning. While nets have been forbidden in some areas there are many places where Maui’s dolphins are still threatened by them.
A huge new seabed mining permit has just been approved off the Taranaki Coast inside the Marine Mammal Sanctuary.
Oil exploration, drilling and seismic blasting are also a threat to the Māui dolphins. The previous Government even issued oil exploration permits right inside the Marine Mammal Sanctuary where Maui’s dolphins live.
Seismic testing is a technique used to look for oil beneath the seabed. Air guns blast out a pressure wave which penetrates the seafloor. The reflected sound waves are then recorded by an array of sensors dragged on cables behind the ship. This relentless seismic noise can happen for weeks on end and is potentially harmful to dolphins and other marine mammals that rely on echolocation for communication, navigation, nurturing young and finding food.
An oil spill in the waters adjacent to Maui’s habitat could mean the end for these rare little dolphins.