The New Zealand government is failing to protect the last 55 Māui dolphins by selling off rights for oil and gas exploration in the waters where they are known to swim, says global conservation organisation WWF.
Minister Simon Bridges has today released the 2015 block offer for petroleum exploration, and two of the areas granted permits overlap with the southern part of Māui dolphins range. (1)
“Allowing new areas of Māui dolphin habitat to be opened up to oil and gas exploration and seismic activities is unacceptable given the perilously low numbers of dolphins that remain,” says WWF-New Zealand’s Senior Campaigner Alex Smith.
“Instead of exposing these critically endangered animals to additional dangers, the government should be doing everything it can to protect the last 55 Māuis throughout their entire range.”
Currently, less than half of Māui dolphins’ habitat is protected.
Last year the government issued an oil drilling permit in the marine mammal sanctuary; this year’s block offers overlap with established Māui dolphin habitat off the coast of southern Taranaki.
WWF is calling for the full protection for the last 55 Māui dolphins wherever they swim. This means a genuine sanctuary, prohibiting harmful fishing practices and placing a moratorium on risky marine mining activities, from Maunganui Bluff to the Whanganui river mouth, including harbours, in waters out to 100 metres deep.
Whanganui river is recognised as the southern extent of Māui dolphin range based on public sightings data and analysis by the world’s leading dolphin scientists. (2)
Notes to editor:
(1) Block offer numbers 60089 and 60094. More details here: http://www.beehive.govt.nz/
(2) The known range from Maunganui Bluff to Whanganui river mouth, including harbours and out to 100 meters depth is based on the best scientific assessment by International Whaling Commission, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the Society for Marine Mammalogy, and the New Zealand government’s Risk Assessment Panel of scientists.
Rosa Argent, WWF-New Zealand Communiations Manager, 027 212 3103
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organisations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.