Hon Eugenie Sage: Strengthening protection for Māui and Hector’s dolphins

Opinion 27/06/2019

By Hon Eugenie Sage, Minister of Conservation, Green Party MP.

Māui and Hector’s are special dolphins that only live in the waters off New Zealand’s coastline. Māui dolphins are nationally critical, with only an estimated 63 dolphins remaining in the world. Hector’s dolphins are nationally vulnerable with about 15,000 in New Zealand waters.

These precious dolphins are New Zealand taonga.

We need to act now to ensure their populations increase and both species thrive.

Last week the Minister for Fisheries Stuart Nash and I announced the action this Government is taking to expand and strengthen the protection for the Māui and Hector’s.

The proposals include options for doubling the areas of ocean closed to set nets and trawl nets to protect Māui dolphin from the risk of bycatch. The options are based on the best available science, New Zealand and international expertise.

The science is clear that set nets and trawling are a significant threat to Māui and Hector’s and result in deaths of these precious dolphins.

That’s why we need to give them the best protection and support that we can.

The proposals also include options to extend the boundaries of the West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary south to Wellington and extend the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary north to Kaikōura, south to Timaru, and offshore to 20 nautical miles.

We’re also looking at the other threats to the dolphins.

An emerging threat is that from toxoplasmosis.

This is disease comes from cat faeces and reaches the ocean via streams and rivers and can kill dolphins and other marine mammals.

Less is known about the toxoplasmosis threat then the set netting and trawling. The plan proposes to ramp up the science in this area, improve education to cat owners about what we already know, and advocate for improved riparian planting and wetland restoration.

Other risks that the plan proposes to protect the dolphins from include the effect of seismic surveying and seabed mining within and next to marine mammal sanctuaries.

We know people are passionate about marine mammals and there are a wide range of views out there about the best way to protect them. I encourage everyone to share their thoughts and make a difference. 

You can find out more about the proposals and make a submission today to help protect these magnificent dolphins.

By Hon Eugenie Sage, Minister of Conservation, Green Party MP.