Our Final Chance to Keep Maui’s and Hector’s Dolphins From Imminent Extinction
May 26, 2016
From Mission Blue partner NABU International which has launched the Hector’s and Maui’s Dolphin SOS campaign.
Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins are the smallest and rarest marine dolphins on Earth and live only in New Zealand. Maui’s dolphins have declined from an estimated 1,800 in the 1970s to less than 50 today as a result of fishing. The closely related Hector’s dolphin is also threatened, with several populations numbering fewer than 100 individuals. Maui’s dolphins have become so rare that the death of more than a single individual every ten to 23 years will result in extinction. Yet between three and four Maui’s dolphins die in fishing nets each year.
The NZ fishing industry, rather than a specific fishery, is the focus of the Hector’s and Maui’s Dolphin SOS consumer campaign. Seafood New Zealand (SFNZ) is the country’s industry’s umbrella body and they have been aware of the impact of gillnet and trawl fisheries on Maui’s dolphins for 30 years. SFNZ has denied and even hidden the evidence and stood in the way of effective, science-based protection measures for decades. In 2008, they even took the government to court to overturn the nominal protection measures that are in place now. The Hector’s and Maui’s Dolphin SOS consumer campaign directly challenges the NZ’s fishing industry through consumer power and businesses that use a large share of New Zealand seafood.
A leaked internal government report sets out that if evidence of the widespread dumping of large amounts of fish and dolphin by-catch were to become public, companies such as McDonalds are likely to stop buying fish from New Zealand. This is why we are urging McDonald, which uses 8% of hoki in its filet-o-fish, to stop putting New Zealand fish and hoki into their fish burgers. This campaign is our last chance to save Maui’s dolphins and to ensure that “sustainable NZ seafood” becomes a reality, not just an empty advertising slogan.
Just how much by-catch has New Zealand been under-reporting? See the shocking revelations below compiled by the University of British Columbia in their recently released Working Paper #2015 – 87.
Consumer power truly is the dolphins’ last hope. McDonald’s filet-o-fish contains fish from New Zealand and so supports an industry that fights for the right to continue killing the dolphins. Please join us and freedive world champion William Trubridge in calling on McDonald’s to drop New Zealand fish from its menu and make a pledge not to buy McDonald’s fillet-o-fish or any other fish from New Zealand until the dolphins are properly protected. This is a huge opportunity for McDonald’s to do the right thing. Join the petition here.
“New Zealand is in danger of becoming the first country to allow the extinction of a marine dolphin due to human activity,” explains NABU International Chief Executive Thomas Tennhardt. “The industry’s role in the dolphins’ demise is already impacting New Zealand’s international standing and brand—an untenable situation for a country that portrays itself as an environmentally responsible nation and tourist destination. While the government and the industry are in denial, our appeal to McDonald’s and consumers around the world is a last chance SOS to call to avoid the dolphins’ demise at the eleventh hour,” adds Tennhardt.
In a development on May 26th, 2016, McDonalds corporate office in the United States responded with the following statement:
We understand the importance of protecting marine wildlife, especially endangered species that share the ocean with the fish we use on our menu around the world. That’s why we’re proud of our global commitment to only source fish from sustainably certified fisheries, which are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) globally, and therefore, in New Zealand.
All MSC certified fisheries meet their high standard for sustainable fishing, which is grounded in scientific data and research and is widely recognized as the world’s most credible and robust assessment of the sustainability of wild fisheries. We share the same interest in ensuring the health and vitality of the world’s oceans, that is why we will continue to work with the world’s leading experts in the area of oceanic sustainability to ensure that all marine wildlife are protected.
Are these sustainable certifications meaningful in the face of two dolphin populations about to go extinct? Decide for yourself. What is clear is that business as usual will most certainly lead to the extinction of these two marine dolphin species. Not in decades from now. But in years if not months.
NABU International’s calls for an urgent ban of harmful fishing methods across the dolphins’ habitat correspond to recommendations by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Society for Marine Mammalogy. Affected fishermen should be helped to transition to selective, sustainable and dolphin-friendly fishing methods or to alternative livelihoods. The group is calling on McDonald’s to drop New Zealand fish from its menu and for consumers to make a pledge not to buy McDonald’s fillet-o-fish or any other fish from New Zealand until the dolphins are fully protected. You can sign the petition here.
Get the latest on the fight to save the Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins at NABU’s Hector’s and Maui’s Dolphin SOS campaign webpage. Also, stay tuned for an upcoming Mission Blue blog that will detail the precipitous decline of another marine dolphin, Mexico’s vaquita porpoise, which lives in the Gulf of California Hope Spot and whose population levels are below 100.