The just-released formal record of the meeting includes a decision by the IWC to express “particular concern” for Māui dolphins’ survival. This is the first time that countries have raised the plight of the critically-endangered Māui dolphins during a full inter-governmental session. Until now, Māui dolphins have been a concern for the IWC's Scientific Committee, who have repeatedly urged the New Zealand government to protect them from human threats.
Footage recorded at the meeting itself shows the European Union (represented by Austria), Switzerland and Monaco highlighting the Māui dolphins’ plight; expressing concern over the decision to allow marine mining exploration in their habitat; and calling the New Zealand government to take urgent action.
Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union said: "The effective conservation of Māui dolphin requires urgent action to remove the remaining risk from fishing nets from the entire Māui dolphin habitat."
Switzerland said: "We are also concerned that mineral exploration was permitted in the marine mammal sanctuary established to protect the critically-endangered Māui dolphin. We trust that New Zealand's government supports the strictest conservation measures and at the same time addresses the social and economic impacts faced by fishermen in the transition to dolphin-safe fishing."
In response, WWF-New Zealand CEO Livia Esterhazy said: "It's just not good enough that the international community has to speak out to express concern for New Zealand's level of protection for Māui dolphins. We have only around 60 adult Māui dolphins left. As guardians of these taonga, and as a nation that prides ourselves on being environmentally responsible, there is simply no other option now but to do whatever we can to remove all human threats from their habitat."
Livia went on: "At WWF, we've been working with fishing companies like Moana New Zealand and Sanford Limited to find innovative solutions to one of the key threats: fishing. We're making good progress, but the government needs to step in now and help accelerate our country towards only permitting dolphin-safe fishing in their habitat. We will continue to work on ways to minimise all human threats for these magnificent dolphins."
Livia went on to say "We know Kiwis care deeply for our natural environment. We are starting to really understand just how critical biodiversity is for the health of our world and for the entire human race. Māui dolphins are part of the web of life that sustains us all on this planet."
Livia concluded by urging Kiwis to take action for better protection for Māui dolphins. "Our government is reviewing the plan to protect Māui dolphins. We've set up a page where people can write to our Prime Minister and tell her what they think. Scientists tell us that it's still possible to work together and save our Māui dolphins, but we don't have any time to lose. We must respond appropriately to this request from the international community, not just because the world is watching, but because it's the right thing to do."