Dolphins that are adapted to elude killer whales are facing extinction because of something far worse

May 18, 2016

The tiny Maui’s dolphin, whose evolutionary path has out-maneuvered that of the brainiest predator in the ocean – the killer whale – now faces near extinction at the hands of man. In a few short decades this unique dolphin and its close relative the Hector’s dolphin have been decimated by greed and corruption.

For millennia the little dolphins thrived in spite of several types of killer whales that navigate the region. These cute dolphins with ‘Mickey Mouse ear’ dorsal fins have developed an evolutionary trick – their sonar is too high pitched for the orcas to hear. The dolphins have abandoned whistling and instead have adapted their sonar to communicate with each other as well as to navigate and locate prey. (Read more about this fascinating adaptation here andhere.)

Their home range is restricted to shallow (100 meter) depths that tend to be ‘acoustically cluttered’, further making them hard to detect.

But while perfectly adapted to an open environment, they run afoul of nets and an indifferent government. The future of the remaining 43 – 47 Maui’s dolphins left in existence is dependent upon preventing just two types of fishing – gill netting and trawling – in the small region off the coast New Zealand that this species calls home.

Yet New Zealand’s Minister for Primary Industries, Hon Nathan Guy. refuses to take action. Worse, an academic paper has emerged that implicates him in failing to report half of the fish taken by commercial boats, and for allowing cover-up of dolphin deaths.

scoop.nz reports:

Auckland, 16 May 2016 – Greenpeace is calling for an independent investigation of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in light of an explosive academic report released today, which finds that the quantity of fish caught in New Zealand is more than twice what is officially recorded.

…Of the total catch from foreign and New Zealand flagged vessels, commercial discards were estimated to be as high as 37.4% of fish caught. Unreported landings from the industrial sectors made up 18.3%.

“That means nearly twenty percent of all fish caught are stolen and over a third are thrown back. The waste is mind boggling,” says [Executive Director of Greenpeace New Zealand, Russel Norman].

…The University of Auckland’s report also reveals a situation where multiple vulnerable Hector’s dolphins were caught, and only one reported. This follows on from allegations that surfaced just last Friday, in a study by German conservation organisation, NABU International, that revealed a critically endangered Maui dolphin catch cover-up by MPI. Norman says Greenpeace is demanding an independent investigation into the government department.

“Not only has the catch been more than double what has been recorded, but it appears that MPI have known and kept it quiet,” he says. “MPI must now release any visual evidence they have hidden, and let all New Zealanders see what is going on out at sea. ”

The dolphins are facing extinction because of the profits gained from overseas sales, not because of a need to feed the population of New Zealand. Seafood New Zealand reports that $1.71 billion ($1.17 billion U.S.) was made from exporting seafood to foreign countries:

The strongest value growth is from exports of frozen fin fish with rock lobster, orange roughy, fish meal and mussels also returning increased prices.

China accounts for nearly one third of total seafood export value.
The second most valuable market is Australia followed by the United States, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Spain, France, Germany and Thailand.

The Maui’s dolphins, and their close relative the Hector’s dolphin, need a break and time to recover. You can help by refusing to buy seafood caught in New Zealand, and by volunteering to help spread the word to pressure the government of New Zealand to fully protect the remaining dolphins.

Find out more:
 Source: Blog.Seattlepi.com
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