Featured Image Credit: hectorsdolphins.com
By Laura O’Brien
Māui dolphins are black, white, and grey marine mammals who live solely off the coast of New Zealand. The adorable marine mammals are a unique and important presence in the shallow waters off the western coast of North Island, New Zealand. Unfortunately, the dolphins have become alarmingly scarce, and action must be taken immediately. New Zealand’s Minister of Conservation released an updated Threatened Species Strategy which describes Māui dolphins as “nationally critical”. However, despite their desperate need for help, the dolphins are not everyone’s primary concern.
The most significant threat to Māui dolphins (as well as many other marine mammals) is human activity. Fishing practices within the Māui dolphins’ habitat are decimating the population, and the regulations in place are completely inadequate. The New Zealand Department of Conservation estimated that there were ONLY 63 ADULT MĀUI DOLPHINS ALIVE LAST YEAR. Think about that. The unfortunate creatures have an incredibly small environment, yet only 30% of this is protected.
According to New Zealand’s online magazine The Spinoff, “75% of New Zealanders think the government should financially assist fishing people and communities to switch to dolphin-safe fishing methods in Māui dolphin habitat.” With such overwhelming support for measures to be taken, it is shocking that more efforts have not been made to save the species.
Business and Economic Research Limited released a report which estimated that the government could fund the transition to dolphin safe fishing in the areas where Māui dolphins live for merely $26 million. Although this number may seem large, $26 million is a minuscule amount of the government’s budget. In fact, it is less than 1% of the surplus New Zealand expects this year. Although the government has offered no promising approach to saving the Māui dolphins, the New Zealand government did announce that they will be using $178 million to improve and expand tourist facilities. Expenditures like this are causing New Zealanders to speak out about what they view as misallocation of government resources.
It is time for the Minister of Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, to listen to the people; it is time to save New Zealand’s beloved Māui dolphins! All we have to do is try.
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