Sea Shepherd New Zealand Launches New Boat for Māui Defense Campaign

Wednesday, 12 Apr, 2023

Sea Shepherd New Zealand is pleased to announce a new patrol boat for Tamaki Makaurau / Auckland: Fox Fraher (Fox Fr-ahh), purchased by Sea Shepherd with the help of private donors including two donors for whose son the vessel is named. Sea Shepherd New Zealand is supported by individual donations and receives no government or other public funding.

Fox Fraher is suitable for sailing through trickier or more dangerous waters such as the bar of the Manukau Harbour to access the west coast Māui Dolphin habitat. It will be deployed to observe and document Māui outside the four-nautical-mile zone, where they remain unprotected from trawling. And as a trailer boat, Fox Fraher can be used to help other organisations working to protect marine wildlife and habitats.

Until late 2020, the area of Māui habitat protected from trawlers was a mere two nautical miles off shore. The government has since extended it to four nautical miles and made misleading and heroic false claims of protection. Māui along with its cousin Pahu (Hector’s) have been scientifically confirmed out to 100m depth, approximately 20nm. So although the protection area for Maui has indeed increased, it’s still is only about 10% of their habitat for trawling and 30% for gillnets. The NZ Government and DOC have made statements acknowledging this as fact.

"The surveys also indicate that while many sightings of Māui's dolphins occur within the current 4 nautical mile (7.4 km) trawl fishing restricted area, there have been sightings of Māui's dolphins outside this protected area. This is publicly documented by government websites showing maps of confirmed Maui sightings and habitat boundaries. So even the government agencies setting the commercial trawl zones can’t argue that the protection area is not insufficient," says Fox Fraher skipper James Boshier.

“Sea Shepherd NZ's intention is to further document and publicise evidence that the commercial fishing boundaries in place remain insufficient and the Māui protected area needs to be extended immediately. We hope to engage New Zealanders to put more pressure on the government to provide adequate protection before the inevitable extinction of this precious species. Māui dolphins are endemic to Aotearoa, and they should be treated no differently to the more effectively protected endemic species such as the iconic Kiwi, our internationally known symbol”. 

In launching Fox Fraher and calling for the expansion of the protection range, Sea Shepherd NZ intends to build on recent victories in the battle to save the Māui dolphin and restore the slow-breeding species to healthy numbers. 

In response to a lawsuit brought by Sea Shepherd against the United States Department of Commerce under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to protect the critically endangered Māui dolphin, the United States Court of International Trade ordered a ban of imports of nine fish species caught off the west coast of the North Island. The ban specifically applies to set-net and trawl fisheries operating in Māui dolphin habitat.  

Describing the ban as “a victory for independent science,” Michael Lawry, Sea Shepherd NZ’s Managing Director, says the science in the case “clearly demonstrated the methods used by the fisheries at issue – indiscriminate set nets and trawls – were putting the endangered Māui dolphin at greater risk of extinction.”

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