An opinion poll published today shows the Minister for Primary Industries, Hon. Nathan Guy MP, is out of step with public opinion on protecting the critically endangered Māui dolphin, said WWF-New Zealand.
The recent poll, conducted by respected opinion research company Colmar Brunton, asked if people think the government should financially assist fishers to transition to dolphin-safe fishing methods in Māui dolphin habitat. 75% said yes, 13% said no, 12% were unsure.
Commenting on the poll, Peter Hardstaff, Head of Campaigns for WWF-New Zealand said: “We know that the vast majority of New Zealanders want dolphin-safe fishing in Māui dolphin habitat and this poll shows very strong public support for the government to step in and help fishers make the transition”.
“Instead of getting on with it, Nathan Guy is arguing about where the dolphins live and claiming current measures are adequate, despite a string of scientific recommendations to the contrary,” Mr Hardstaff said. “Fishing restrictions cover only about 40% of Māui habitat. The Minister for Primary Industries is out of step with public opinion and out of step with the science.
“The Māui dolphin population is now estimated to be as low as 63 over the age of one. The future of this dolphin continues to hang in the balance which means the main threats – set netting and trawling – should be removed. The government should be doing the maximum possible rather than the minimum it can get away with.”
For four years now, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has called for the New Zealand government to take further action. In 2016, the IWC’s small cetaceans sub-committee concluded that existing measures fall short of what is required to protect Māui dolphins and recommended removing the known fishing threats from the entire range.
“We want to see fishing co-exist with Māui dolphins, but we recognise that a shift to dolphin-safe methods will be a major challenge for many fishers on the West Coast of the North Island,” Mr Hardstaff said. “We are urging the government to assist with this transition and this polling shows that 75% of New Zealanders think the same way.”
Research released earlier this week estimates that the transition could cost the government as little as $26 million, equivalent to three years of Ministerial travel expenses.