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.
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!
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.
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 [email protected] )
- Honorable David Carter, Minister of Primary Industries, NZ ( email [email protected])
- Honorable Kate Wilkinson, Minister of Conservation, NZ ( email [email protected])
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.