New Voter’s Guide for a Dolphin Friendly Future


Maui and Hector’s dolphins are the world’s smallest marine dolphin, only found in New Zealand, and facing extinction from a range of inshore threats.

A new Voter’s Guide for Election 2017 has been released today to help inform New Zealander’s choices about protection of these dolphins and inshore ecosystems. The guide, ‘Solutions for Dolphins and Inshore Ecosystems’ analyses each major political party’s policies regarding the protection of Māui and Hector’s dolphins. It also considers marine mining, and an independent review of the Quota Management System (QMS).

The International Whaling Commission (IWC), International Union for Conservation (IUCN), and the Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM) have urged the New Zealand Government to take trawling and set netting out of inshore waters to the 100m depth / 12-mile limit, to protect the dolphins.  There are only about 63 Māui dolphins left in the North Island population, and the small, geographically and genetically distinct South Island Hector’s subpopulations face extinction too.

Set netting and trawl fishing methods kill many endangered tāonga species as by-catch, as well as these endangered dolphins. These include Common, Dusky, and Bottlenose dolphins, Orca; whales; Sea Lions, Leopard seals, Fur seals; Yellow-Eyed and Blue Penguins; Albatross, Petrels and Shearwaters; Turtles, and more. They also cause hundreds of tonnes of fish to be dumped by the commercial fishing industry every year.

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The ‘Dolphin Solutions’ policy assessment and report was commissioned by Māui and Hector’s Dolphin Defenders NZ Inc, and supported by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. It asked political parties for their views on the international science community’s recommendations, and other threats, and compared their policies.

Christine Rose, Chair of Māui and Hector’s Dolphin Defenders, says “the international community recommends greater immediate protection for these tiny dolphins, and their ecosystems. This report found that the status quo fails to give them the protection they need to survive extinction”.

“It found that the Māori and Labour parties offer strong, quick and effective solutions to dolphin conservation, by supporting set and trawl net free seas within the recommended area”.

“The Green Party, NZ First and The Opportunities Party (TOP) are close behind in policy strength according to the report” says Mrs Rose. “National are not committed to the essential, recommended steps required to protect these endangered dolphins and associated marine ecosystems”, though she says “their score on the comparative criteria, improved slightly since the last election”.

The parties were also asked for their position on protecting the important Taranaki Bight / Cook Strait area from mining and damaging fishing methods. There are at least 37 species of whales and dolphins in the area, and it is a breeding ground for New Zealand Blue whales – the largest mammals on the planet, who are just beginning to recover from the whaling days. This area is also a vital corridor for Hector’s and Māui dolphins travelling between the North and South Island. “Again the Maori Party and Labour had the strongest policies to protect this area in the future”, says Mrs Rose, “it’s protection that is needed as seabed mining in the area has been approved”.  

According to the report, all parties except National, said they would support and / or compensate affected fishers for a transition away from destructive fishing methods. All parties except National said they would ensure the Quota Management System is independently reviewed.

Each party policy has been reviewed as objectively and fairly as possible, based on a range of criteria and in response to a survey. They were interviewed by a researcher and given opportunity to follow up in response to the development of the report.  Please see the full assessment for details (attached).