State of Marine Mammals in Aotearoa

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New Zealand has always been a nation where ordinary people play a key part in caring for our environment and native species. However, it’s important that those of us who are committed to preserving New Zealand’s wildlife are up-to-date with the latest threats faced by our endemic species.

Whale rescue charity and WCA Partner Project Jonah has today released a report which shines a light on the state of marine mammals in Aotearoa. Following consultation with 12 of the country’s leading marine mammal experts, the report summarises and discusses the short, medium and long-term threats to whales, dolphins and seals in New Zealand.

“We wanted to be sure our messages align with up-to-date scientific thinking and that those who care about the marine environment understand the current threats faced by marine mammals” said Daren Grover, General Manager of Project Jonah. “Unsurprisingly, fisheries by-catch (being caught and drowning in fishing nets) is the biggest short-term threat, with plastics and rubbish entering the oceans the key medium-term threat. And let’s not forget, our marine environments are incredibly sensitive to climate change. We aren’t seeing the full effects of this yet, but as ocean temperatures rise and become more acidic, we are likely to see changes to where our species live, food chains and potential new diseases threatening our whales and dolphins”.

The report also reviews scientific and technological innovations which could be harnessed to allow us to learn more about these animals, and what needs to be done to protect them. Finally, it highlights three key things that every Kiwi should know about New Zealand’s marine mammals.

While it may sound all doom and gloom, Grover is quick to counter. ”Of course it’s disheartening to realise that humans have caused many of the problems that marine mammals face. However, the whole point of this report is to show that we can and must do something about it. We can all choose to avoid eating fish, and to reduce the amount of plastics in our lives, particularly food wrapping and single-use containers”.

If you want to read the State of Marine Mammals in Aotearoa, 2019 report, head to their website: https://www.projectjonah.org.nz/2019Report

For 45 years, Project Jonah has been a voice for whales and dolphins in New Zealand and beyond. The charity is best known for its ‘Marine Mammal Medics’ programme, where ordinary New Zealanders attend classes where they’re taught how to respond when a real life stranding occurs.

Author: Phil

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