Maui Dolphin Near Extinction! – ACTION Alert!


Bombarded as we are by the tragedies of life and living, animal lovers hear the term “endangered” a lot.  But we don’t hear of extinction.  The Passenger Pigeon is the last species to go extinct while we watched, right before our very eyes.  From blackening the sky to nearly none happened in just 30 years, around the turn of the century.  Because there were billions just 5o years earlier, no one thought it truly possible for a species to disappear until it was much too late to bring them back.  Such is very close to the case now with the Maui’s Dolphins.

Dead Maui & Hector's dolphins found drowned at the shoreline, killed by illegal nets

The NZ Fishing Industry refuses to recognize that they're even endangered!

In 2007, the WWF survey estimated that there were 110 of these friendly shore-dwelling dolphins left, all at the coast of New Zealand.  Now in 2012, there are less than 80… and three have been killed in as many weeks, drowned after becoming caught in illegal recreational fishing nets.  Called Set or Gill nets, they have been claiming the lives of Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins for years.  The government of New Zealand has laws against the use of such nets, but the laws are nearly never enforced.

If this trend continues, there will not be enough Maui’s dolphins left for a sustainable genetic gene pool by this time next year.  The Maui’s dolphin is going extinct, literally right before our very eyes!  Long before the President of the United States finishes his next term, there will be no Maui dolphins left in the world, unless we take strong measures immediately.   But the prime minister of New Zealand, uncharacteristically preferring the cash influences of the Fisheries, acts as though these horrifying truths don’t even exist!

Though Maui’s dolphins continue to be found dead on the shores of the harbor, the Fisheries industry still demands that the politicians parrot their claim that Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins do not go into the harbor!

Gareth Hughes, Activist Politician, at an Oil Spill Protection Plan rally

MP Gareth Hughes, Activist Politician

One voice stands up loudly in their defense, one activist voice in the wilderness of politicians.  Young MP Gareth Hughes, of New Zealand’s Green Party, is loudly outspoken regarding environmental issues.  While the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry officials claim that the two most recent deaths must be the result of illegal fishing, Mr. Hughes calls them out, noting that the protected areas are insufficient, considering the sheer number of sightings of Hector’s dolphins outside of the Set Net ban area; “Hector’s dolphins have been seen by Ministry of Fisheries observers outside the set net ban area off the coast of the South Island, and independent academic research backs up these observations,” said Mr Hughes. He calls upon the New Zealand government to

  • Act immediately to extend the set net ban further offshore to cover the areas in which Hector’s dolphins are known to swim.
  • Monitor the set net bans more thoroughly. (Historically, monitoring has been poor.)
  • Enforce the ban, including increasing the aerial monitoring of the set net ban area
  • Increase the amount of Ministry of Fisheries observers on commercial fishing boats outside the set net ban.

“How many endangered dolphins need to die before the Government strengthens protection for them?” asks Mr Hughes.

Hector's & Maui Dolphin Distribution vs Protection Map Sep 2011

The red is where they occur. The thin green lines are the only areas they are protected. The remaining Maui dolphins are found on the west side of the North Island.

What can be done to help?  Our idea is to make some noise — a LOT of it!  There’s no such thing as too much noise, when we’re talking about a species going extinct right before our very eyes.  Many of the deaths have been caused by RECREATIONAL fishing and boating!

Three people are responsible for the care of these precious and very endangered dolphins:

  • Right Honorable John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand ( email )
  • Honorable David Carter, Minister of Primary Industries, NZ ( email
  • Honorable Kate Wilkinson, Minister of Conservation, NZ ( email

All three of them have categorically ignored the pleas of activists, even when they are armed with valid scientific data and facts.  Please, write them emails.  Here’s an Example Letter:

Esteemed and Honorable (or Right Honorable, for Mr. Key) ______,

New Zealand has been known the world over for breathtaking beauty, ecological responsibility, and a sense of unity amongst all of her people.  That’s why it was so very shocking to me to discover that the plight of the Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins have been largely ignored.  At present, the beautiful Maui’s dolphin, which should be a national treasure for New Zealand, has less than 80 members left alive.  At the rate that they are being killed by recreational boaters and fishermen and illegal nets, the Maui dolphins may not survive your term, and the Hector’s fate is similarly grim.

Extinction is forever!  If we hesitate now, we cannot take that back or make it up, which is why it is so very important to err on the side of caution.  PLEASE, I urge you, implore you, step up the protections for these most rare, friendly and sensitive beings.  The harbor areas of the west side of the North Island must be protected immediately, and all areas expanded to reflect their actual range!

As a Kiwi, you know better than most that the fate of the world and that of the oceans are intrinsically linked.  This philosophy has done much to promote your multi-billion dollar tourist trade. The whole world is watching now.  Do whatever it takes to protect them.  Please, do not let indifference cause the Maui’s or Hector’s dolphins go extinct.  Don’t let your legacy, and the reputation of New Zealand, be stained by that they died on your watch.


<City, State, Country>

Then please add your name and voice to this petition:

The above video shows a diver freeing a Hector’s Dolphin which was caught in a gil net.
Below is a photo of a couple that weren’t so lucky.

Two Maui dolphins, drowned after being caught up in nylon nets last week.

Call To End Use of FADs! Tuna Whistleblower Shows All!

Greenpeace provides this video footage from a commercial tuna operation’s helicopter pilot, calling it

“The Video the Global Tuna Industry Doesn’t Want You To See.” (WARNING: The video shows violence!)

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse than the Faroe Islands, Pacific tuna hunt companies up the stakes.

image of a FAD (Fish Aggregation Device)

This pinger gathers all manner of marine life to it, not just adult tuna.


Using Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs,) which are floating sonic beacons, in conjunction with purse nets, the boats are netting all manner of marine life other than the tuna they’re supposed to be taking. According to the whistle-blower chopper pilot, before they started using FADs, the catch was adult tuna. Since, the catch is greater, but includes immature tuna as well as dolphins, manta rays, whales, marlins, sharks, turtles… all manner of creatures, which are then brutally slaughtered. The immature tuna are even wasted as they’re too small to be taken legally, but already dead.

Purse “seine” nets being used in conjunction with FADs is akin to baiting an area and then firing a thousand automatic SHOTGUNS at the area after all manner of creatures have arrived at the bait site. Baiting is illegal for hunting as it interferes with the regular activities of wildlife, and it should be illegal for fishing as well. Our oceans cannot afford, cannot sustain, the by-kill of this device. Whales, dolphins, sharks, rays… all being viciously slaughtered because they came up in the nets, too? The video shows a manta ray on its back, still alive when these hunters slice long lines down its body time after time after time. Can there possibly be any excuse for that?

Cetacean By-kill of a purse net using a FAD

Cetaceans are amongst those killed by FADs & purse nets.

Whale on deck, dead, caught in a purse net that was using a FAD.

This whale lost its life to a FAD and purse netting.

We join Greenpeace in demanding that the use of FADs be prohibited and discontinued. There are links to action at the end of the video. Please, use them.

SeaWorld In Court

Today, SeaWorld is taking the United States to court.  Their lawyers are challenging OSHA’s ruling requiring that orca trainers stay out of the water — a ruling made after Dawn Brancheau was killed by a male orca last year.  At the heart of the matter is that the SeaWorld lawyers are attempting to suppress evidence, videos of the incidents, etc.  They’re effectively trying to whitewash the situation, make it seem as though it was just an accident, as though their  modification will provide a safe environment for the trainers.  (For more details on the case and actions, visit the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society’s page.)

The facts tell a different story.   Dawn was just one of at least two trainers killed last year.  Across the Atlantic at a Canary Island facility that SeaWorld has orcas at, a man was killed within just weeks of the latest Tilikum incident.   And that doesn’t begin to account for all of the orcas’ lives lost to the captivity that SeaWorld tries to justify under the inaccurate claim of Education.  Truth is, orcas seldom live to even half of their normal, expected lifespans in SeaWorld tanks.  Fact is, many die within a year of being captured, and even those born in captivity see a very small fraction of the years they’d have in the wild.  SeaWorld’s propaganda machine tries to paint a different picture, and their lawyers are trying to get the facts suppressed.  Why?  Because if the full truth were known, they’d be shut down and never allowed to reopen again.

SeaWorld’s changes include a Spare Air canister and CO2 cartridge lifevests.  Not only is the premise flawed (as it’s exceedingly difficult to get to a Spare Air while being thrashed about by an upset orca,) the equipment itself creates a greater risk.  Their rising floor is not working properly (yet), and that, too, poses risks for both trainers and orcas.  Another ignored truth (which those of us who have worked with cetaceans could tell) is that there was AMPLE warning by all three of the orcas in the shows that day, behaviors warning them that the orcas were discontent, aggravated.  But because there was money involved, the shows were brought back on prematurely.  In the final analysis, if she hadn’t been in the tank with Tilikum, Dawn would still be alive today, and NONE of the measures proposed by SeaWorld would have changed the outcome.

A male orca at SeaWorld. The behaviors are unnatural, and the limp dorsal fin is just one sign of the ill results of captivity for both this largest of dolphins and their handlers/trainers.

A male orca at SeaWorld. The behaviors are unnatural, and the limp dorsal fin is just one sign of the ill results of captivity for both this largest of dolphins and their handlers/trainers.


Perhaps it’s time we acted on behalf of the orcas, to take SeaWorld to court.  They claim to be performing education, when the truth is they’re only providing entertainment — at a whopping $81 per person per day!  SeaWorld supporters claim that people wouldn’t even know about orcas and dolphins if not for SeaWorld’s shows.  First off, that’s far from true.  The world became familiar with dolphins via a TV show called “Flipper” decades ago, and SeaWorld is simply capitalizing on that interest.   The perpetuation of the term “killer whale” was also an attempt to sensationalize the creatures.  Orcas have NEVER attacked humans in the wild.  In fact, there are several credible accounts of wild orcas seeking out our company, treating us as fellow sapient beings.   But if people want or need to see orcas, they can do so with whale watching tours and cinematic experiences.  Keeping them captive against their will is neither necessary nor justifiable.

Technology moves forward.  As you’re reading this, there are plans moving forward to build a cinema in the round — people in the middle of 3-D Imax-style true size orcas, surrounded by their natural movements, sounds, etc.  No captivity necessary, and a far more enriching experience for the humans.  For a lesser price at the box office and, more importantly, without loss of life or the cruel realities of captivity, one can see and learn about orcas as they truly are, rather than a synthetic show that always results in deaths.

That lawyers are moving to suppress evidence is itself ample indictment.  Despite the spins that their PR people put on virtually everything, SeaWorld is not a happy place for dolphins or their handlers.  Despite convenient claims to the contrary, there is no evidence to support the claim that captured orcas cannot be released to the wild, nor that orcas born in captivity cannot survive in the wild.  Please join us in supporting an end to all long-term or commercial captivity of orcas, other dolphins and whales.  Thank you.

EDIT: The hearings continue , now scheduled into mid-November.  SeaWorld isn’t coming out on top of it this time.  More information is coming up to show that which some of us already knew — that they blatantly and intentionally lied about what happened to dawn, both with initially saying that she slipped and fell into the pool, and with the claim that he initially grabbed her by her ponytail.   We remain hopeful that this will be another nail in the coffin that rids us of captive cetaceans. — JT 11/11/2011 11pm EST