About our endangered New Zealand dolphin
The New Zealand dolphin is an endemic marine mammal. It is divided into two subspecies, based on genetic differences. The first is the Hector’s dolphin, which can be found in the South Island and the second being the Māui dolphin, that resides in the waters off the north-west coast of the North Island. Together they are the world’s smallest and rarest oceanic dolphin.
New Zealand’s Department of Conservation has a classification system that ranks the Māui dolphin as “nationally critical”; meaning it is facing an extremely high risk of extinction. While the Hector’s dolphin is classified as “nationally endangered”, suggesting there is room for improvement in helping these mammals flourish in their natural habitat.
What is a Threat Management Plan?
A Threat Management Plan (TMP) is used to help make decisions around the management of threats facing protected species within New Zealand. The Threat Management Plan is designed to describe the nature and extent of these threats, to then implement strategies to reduce those threats, which are created by humans.
Who leads the Hector's & Māui dolphin Threat Management Plan?
The Hector’s and Māui dolphin Threat Management Plan is led by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Fisheries New Zealand.
It is the Department of Conservation’s responsibility to manage the dolphin’s population where it is Fisheries New Zealand’s role to oversee the fishing industry. In addition to these two agencies, various other central government departments oversee the health and well-being of New Zealand’s coastal and marine environment.
When was the Hector's & Māui dolphin Threat Management Plan created?
The first Hector's and Māui dolphin Threat Management Plan was created in 2007.
The Māui dolphin component was revised in 2012, however, the current process is the first complete review of the Threat Management Plan since it was established.
Why was the Hector's & Māui dolphin Threat Management Plan created?
There were concerns from the public and government over the human-induced mortality on the New Zealand dolphins. Concerns were raised about the following:
- Oil and gas exploration
- Boat strike
- Pollution and plastic bags
- Climate change
So far, how has the Threat Management Plan helped the Hector's & Māui dolphins
To date, the main changes that have taken place to help protect the dolphins are within the fishing industry and the creation of marine sanctuaries. Fisheries have implemented restrictions, including set net and trawl bans. Six marine mammal sanctuaries have been created across New Zealand, which includes rigorous rules over petroleum and mineral prospecting and mining.
We are very lucky that in Akaroa Harbour we have our very own ‘Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary’. It encompasses approximately 413,000 hectares and covers 389.31 km of coastline. Extending from the mouth of the Rakaia River to the mouth of the Waipara River and out to sea, 12 nautical miles from the coast. Consequently, here at Akaroa we have seen a blossoming population of Hector’s dolphin, which could be the reason Akaroa Dolphins has a 98% success rate with dolphin sightings!
What is being proposed within the 2019 Threat Management Plan?
Scientific findings suggest that the latest range of human-induced threats which put Hector’s dolphins lives at risk, include fishing, seismic surveying and the disease toxoplasmosis (a parasite spread through cat excrement). The consulting process is about to begin and will discuss a range of options to help improve the way these threats towards Hector’s and Māui dolphins are being managed.
Fishing-related threats have reduced in areas where restrictions have been put in place, however, threats still remain and need to be considered. It is also important to have the conversation on how this could impact people and their livelihoods.
The options include:
- Extending current restrictions on trawling and set netting in areas where the dolphins live.
- Increasing the boundaries of marine mammal sanctuaries.
- Placing further restrictions on seismic surveying and seabed mining in areas where the dolphins live.
- Developing an action plan to address the threat from the disease toxoplasmosis.
For more information on what was proposed within the latest 2019 Threat Management Plan
Where we stand in this debate
We support the petition to enhance the environment of the New Zealand dolphin by banning set netting and extending the marine mammal sanctuary.
Our submission to the Department of Conservation regarding the 2019 Threat Management Plan will be in relationship to Akaroa harbour and the surrounding areas.
If the Threat Management Plan extends the Marine Mammal Sanctuary boundaries by 20 nautical miles and bans trawlers it will end a long-time fishing tradition.
We have one remaining wet boat trawler, which is based in Akaroa and owned by a local family. This would make any decision to completely ban trawlers unpopular within the Akaroa and Bays community.
Our solution is, like the permitted tourist operators, the local family would be issued an exclusive fishing permit in an area from Goat Point to the North, Birdlings Flat to the South and out to 20 nautical miles.
Another threat towards the Hector’s dolphins that we will be bringing attention to, is the many illegal non-permitted tourist operators, that are defying the current moratorium on dolphin watching permits. Our solution is that the Marine Mammal Act of 1992 has variations added to make prosecution for the Department of Conservation easier.
Have your say
You can make your submission by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Submissions close at 5 pm on 4 August 2019.