The government in New Zealand has insisted the critically endangered Maui's dolphin is not at further risk after 3,000 square kilometres of the North Island's west coast were revealed to be listed for oil and gas drilling.
The West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary, home to the Maui's dolphin, was listed as part of a block of land signed off for sea and land oil and gas exploration in documents released to the Green Party, 3 News reports.
But the Conservation Minister Nick Smith insisted the block in question "is nowhere near where the Maui's live," after the issue was raised by Green Party co-leader Russel Norman.
He told Parliament on Wednesday: "There hasn't been a single observation of a Maui's dolphin, and the oil and gas industry hasn't been involved in a single Maui's dolphin incident in Taranaki over the past 40 years despite 23 wells being drilled."
The government signed off a block offer of sea and land in April. According to 3 News, the documents show the Department of Conservation highlighted that 3,000 square kilometres overlap into the sanctuary.
The Maui's dolphin is the world’s rarest and smallest dolphin. It is estimated that there are only 55 adult left off the west coast of New Zealand's North Island as their numbers continue to be threatened by fishing and disease.
Simon Bridges, the Minister of Energy and Resources, also defended signing off the area for drilling. "I think primarily once you go from exploration right through to production, you're not jeopardising the wildlife” he said on Tuesday.
But Mr Norman accused Mr Bridges of being happy “to kill some more” of the dolphins with oil exploration.
Conservation charity the WWF called for the government to do more after the debate broke out and accused it off placing the dolphins at a higher risk.
Annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
1/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
A bottlenose dolphin was seen floating on back before slaughter
2/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Fishermen hiding their culture and tradition
3/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Remaining pod swims just a few feet from the slaughter of their family
4/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Dolphin drive out to sea
5/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Lathered in blood, fishermen receive more transfers of dolphin carcasses
6/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Fishermen enter the cove just after sunrise
7/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
A juvenile Bottlenose barely surfaces during drive out. The chances of survival are slim after 5 tormenting days in the cove
8/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Cove Guardians Jac and Ian document the slaughter
9/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
SSCS Cove Guardian Leader Melissa Sehgal interviews for CNN
10/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Fishermen in wetsuits hunt dolphins at a cove in Taiji, western Japan; U.S. ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy has expressed deep concern over the traditional dolphin hunt. Local fisherman corral dolphins in a secluded bay before killing many for meat
11/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
The selection process of dolphins, during the annual dolphin hunt in Taiji. With 250 dolphins, this was the largest round-up in years
12/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
The agitated dolphins in the cove during the selection process. According to Sea Shepherd, Japanese fisherman rounded up more than 250 dolphins, including babies and juveniles
13/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Japanese fisherman are shown in the cove. Taiji town claims the hunt is an important ritual dating back centuries
14/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
A rare albino calf swims close to his/her mother as the pod was herded into the cove. Dolphins captured in the cove are either sold into captivity, or slaughtered and sold for consumption, despite pleas from animal conservationists around the world against the event
15/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
The process of selecting dolphins during the annual cull, which the mayor of the town defends 'on scientific grounds'
Peter Hardstaff, the head of campaigns for the charity, said: “We need to be doing more to save the last 55 Maui’s dolphins, not exposing them to further risks from seismic surveying for oil exploration.
"The government’s failure to fully protect Maui’s dolphins from net-fishing across their range is already putting them at risk of extinction, and this situation is made worse by opening up their habitat to seismic surveying and a greater chance of oil spills."Reuse content