It's been a while since I've written about the campaign to save the last 55 Maui's Dolphins in New Zealand. We had a micro-success in May this year when government extended fishing restrictions to include the Taranaki region on the southern end of the species' range, but the truth is that the dolphins are far from safe – this token measure was the equivalent of giving endangered pandas a couple of extra trees to climb. It won't stop the steady mortalities that have bought Maui's to the brink of oblivion.
NZ out in the Cold At a meeting of the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Korea last month there was a vote on what should be done to help this situation. The hands of 576 IUCN members, including national representatives, NGOs, and researchers went up to say that the only way to protect these dolphins definitively is to extend the ban on gill-net and trawling to the 100-meter depth contour in all areas where the dolphins are found, including harbours. Amidst this sea of solidarity, a single hand, that of a New Zealand bureaucrat, went up to say "ahem, it's okay how it is, thanks…" Look closely above that hand and you could see the fine strings of its puppeteer back in NZ's government.
Conservationists, scientists, ocean-lovers, and most other unlobotomized homo sapiens are confused. It's understandable that such stubborn myopia is bewildering to the rational mind. After all a government is a collection of mostly reasonable individuals, and it is hard to imagine sitting down with anyone and not being able to convince them that an entire species - a singularity of Earth's biodiversity - is important enough to justify all the precautionary measures recommended by the experts who have studied the species and their demise for decades.
Status Quo = Extinction
These precautionary measures, in a nutshell, are a zero tolerance approach to fishing-related mortality. The species can not endure more than one human-induced death every 5 years. The rate is currently around 100 times more than that.
In 100 years no one will care if a handful of fishermen had to find other jobs (the fishermen themselves probably won't care much in even 10 years), but they will care about a species that is lost forever, and they will remember the infamy and names of a government that did nothing to stop it.
Last Chance to Act However there is no pleasure in "I told you so." And so we are forced to force their hand: to give them no opportunity but to make what is, objectively, the right decision.
This begins with the next round of submissions to the government. Please take the time (literally 15 seconds) to follow this link and sign a submission on Hector's and Maui's Dolphin management to be sent to the NZ government. Of course if you invite your Facebook friends to sign also then you earn extra karmic points!
Photo: Agustin Munoz
Photo: Steve Dawson
ACT NOW! Become a voice for the last 55 Maui's dolphins