New Zealand's iconic dolphins, sea lions and albatrosses have renewed hope for their protection with the drawing of a Green Party Bill from the Members' ballot today.
"I am delighted that this Bill has been drawn at such a crucial time for protecting our marine animals, and protecting our economic credibility as an exporter of sustainable fish products," said Green Party Co-Leader Metiria Turei.
The Marine Animals Protection Law Reform Bill in the name of Metiria Turei MP was drawn today from the Members' ballot.
"My Bill will ensure greater protection of marine animals and seabirds, and secure the long-term sustainability of our fishing industry."
The Bill amends the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978, the Wildlife Act 1953, and the Fisheries Act 1996 to set clear objectives for marine mammal protection, gives the Minister of Conservation power to use the best measures to achieve those objectives, and adjusts the decision-making relationship between the Ministers of Conservation and Fisheries.
"The Bill is sorely needed because the plight of many of our unique and precious marine animals has worsened in recent years," said Mrs Turei.
"Two weeks ago, the fishing industry was in court challenging the Government's measures to protect endangered Hector's and Maui dolphins, which continue to decline. At the same time another Hector's dolphin death from a commercial fishing net was reported.
"A Department of Conservation assessment in April found that many seabird populations were in decline due to pressure from fisheries by-catch.
"And this season, the quota for sea lions killed in the sub Antarctic fisheries was increased, despite a sharp decline in the sea lions' population."
Marine animals and birds are often attracted to fishing boats and become hooked or netted. Many of these species are endangered and vulnerable to by-catch death.
"Most by-catch is unnecessary. The fishing industry can avoid killing marine animals using mitigation measures, changing fishing techniques and avoiding marine animal hotspots," said Mrs Turei.
"Global demands for sustainably harvested fish products are growing, and we need to improve protection of our marine animals if we wish to continue to access these markets."