Thu, Dec 15, 2022 5:00 AM

Back to tribunal for Maui dolphins


Andy Campbell

AN American court decision intended to protect endangered Maui dolphins, has reopened Waitangi Tribunal hopes, Kāwhia resident Davis Apiti says.
The United States Court of International Trade has ordered an immediate ban on New Zealand exports of several species of fish from two fisheries off the North Island’s west coast.
It applies to nine species from the West Coast North Island inshore trawl and set net fisheries, including snapper, tarakihi and spotted dogfish.
Davis applauded the court decision, even though it had taken someone from outside the country to show what was really happening to the dolphin.
“We’ve been trying to protect the dolphin for 22 years; all we are asking for is just give us a chance,” he said.
“That’s what we have been telling them. We would like to get out there but all the money, all the funding, has gone somewhere else.
“We will go back to the Waitangi Tribunal and say ‘look, this case has shown there is definitely a problem, so take action under urgency.’
“That’s a definite plan now, to go urgency, take it back to the tribunal.
“It’s up to the New Zealanders to save the dolphin, we are only trying to advocate for the protection of that dolphin. It’s up to everyone to say, this is a unique species.
“We are just fighting the battle to keep that interest going, and to try and lobby the Government to give us a turn, instead of giving everyone else a turn. We know that’s not effective.”
Davis has never seen a Maui dolphin. He’s heard of other people coming across them, but it’s rare.
“It’s rarer than the [dusky] dolphin, so if you come across it, it’s a fluke. There’s not many out there, it’s only by chance that you come across it.”
And he’s unsure if he wants to see a Maui dolphin.
“It would be hard if they are all gone. I’m glad I haven’t seen one.
“And to come across one and then see them all wiped out, I think I would rather not see them.”
The court action was brought by the non-profit marine wildlife conservation organisation Sea Shepherd New Zealand, which filed legal proceedings in an effort to protect endangered Maui dolphin habitats, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The injunction handed down by the court sent a strong signal to New Zealand and other countries that unless they could show their fisheries regulatory programme was comparable to the US regulatory programme, they risked an import ban, Sea Shepherd board chair and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society chief executive Pritam Singh said.
The ban will remain in place until the US finds New Zealand’s regulations for the fisheries are comparable with American standards, or until the court case is resolved.
Sea Shepherd managing director Michael Lawry said it took the case after running out of strategies to try to protect the Maui dolphin.
“It sends a strong signal to the fishing industry in New Zealand and the Government that we need to have stronger regulatory control to protect our dolphin,” he told RNZ.
“If we can’t comply with the world’s biggest economy and we’re marketing our fish there ... we’re not protecting our marine mammals.
“We’re industrial trawling in [Maui dolphins’] habitat so we’re not giving them enough space.”
Seafood NZ chief executive Dr Jeremy Helson said New Zealand fisheries did comply with US standards.

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