Sea Shepherd submitted a petition to the US government for emergency rulemaking, demanding it to fulfill its obligations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to protect the Māui dolphin. Actually, the organization formally demanded that the Trump Administration immediately ban all imports from New Zealand fisheries that are driving the Māui dolphin to extinction.
The Māui dolphin is the world’s most endangered marine dolphin. Endemic to New Zealand, the Māui dolphin population has been decimated – a victim of bycatch in fisheries using gillnets and trawls.
Sea Shepherd refuse to allow New Zealand’s Māui dolphin to follow the same tragic path as the vaquita in Mexico…Unless action is taken immediately, the Māui dolphin will disappear forever.
The Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) estimates that there are only 57 Māui dolphins remaining — down from approximately 2,000 in 1971.
The IWC, leading scientists, and even the New Zealand government, all agree that the chief cause of this alarming population decline is bycatch in New Zealand fisheries.
Sea Shepherd also identifies as a key cause the US seafood market, which routinely imports between 25,000 and 50,000 kilos of New Zealand snapper per month. The snapper fishery is known to use gear that ensnares Māui dolphins – and this is just one fishery among many that incidentally capture Māui dolphins.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) is a US law that aims to reduce bycatch of marine mammals — not just in US waters, but globally, acting therefore as a legal tool at Sea Shepherd’s disposal to push for an import ban.
Recognizing that the US is a major seafood importer, Congress, through the MMPA, chose to prohibit imports from foreign fisheries that fail to prevent bycatch of marine mammals in line with US standards.
There is no question that New Zealand fails to meet such standards in the case of the Māui dolphin. The current bycatch of Maui dolphins is estimated to be 2 to 4 individuals per year.
If the responsible US agencies do not respond under expectations, Sea Shepherd said it will seek redress in court.