Māui Dolphin advocate welcomes news on fisheries bans

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

Though the new ban from the U.S Court of International Trade on fish imports from areas where the Māui Dolphins roam aims to protect the endangered species, one kaitiaki has spent the past 22 years trying to save the dolphins himself.

Passionate advocate Davis Apiti (Ngāti Te Wehi) has welcomed the news that puts New Zealand's government in a position to “do something”.

Apiti was responsible for taking a case to the Waitangi Tribunal for Ngāti Te Wehi in 2016, claiming the government’s policy on the protection of the dolphins breached Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Though rejected at the time, the ban could potentially mean going back to the tribunal for an urgent hearing on the matter again.

Davis Apiti happy that something has (finally) been done with endangered species protection. 

“It’s exciting for us as mana whenua of the area. We’ve advocated for the protection of the dolphin for many years, and we’ve been looked as being the bad guys,” Apiti says.

“It’s something special and unique to us. It has been, and always will be. We will fight to the end of it.”

The first chair of Te Ohu Kai Moana and Sealord, Shane Jones, has long been involved in the fisheries sector and, in particular, Māori fisheries settlements. He’s pointed the finger at controversial conservation organisation Sea Shepherd which filed the proceedings for what will mean millions of dollars in exports lost in this country.

Apiti says Jones and the government need a wakeup call, and is glad that it’s taken an international court to do something to protect endangered species.

“No one has the right, in the 21st century to lead any species into extinction. No one.”

“It’s taken someone outside to say ‘Look, you need to take a look at what your practices are and they’re not working.’”