Sea Shepherd demands US ban seafood imports from New Zealand
Environmental activist group Sea Shepherd announced that it has submitted a petition for emergency rulemaking demanding that the U.S. government cease importing seafood from New Zealand in order to protect the Māui dolphin.
The Māui dolphin, found off the west coast of the north island in New Zealand, is one of the rarest marine mammals in the world: The scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) estimates that just 57 estimated remain. According to Sea Shepherd, the dolphin is on the path to extinction if bycatch by New Zealand vessels continues to affect its numbers.
“Endemic to New Zealand, the Māui dolphin population has been decimated – a victim of bycatch in fisheries using gillnets and trawls,” stated Sea Shepherd in a release. “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.”
Currently, bycatch of the dolphins is estimated to be two to four individuals per year.
Sea Shepherd’s petition calls on the U.S. government to apply the Marine Mammal Protection Act , a law aiming to reduce bycatch of marine mammals both domestically and globally through banning imports off seafood from fisheries that fail to adequately prevent bycatch.
That law, said Sea Shepherd, should apply to New Zealand. Currently, the U.S. imports thousands of tons of seafood from the country. One fishery in particular – New Zealand snapper – is the main culprit.
“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,” Sea Shepherd said.
If the government fails to respond to Sea Shepherd’s petition, the organization said it will “seek redress in court.”
Photo courtesy of Sea Shepherd