New Zealand

Earthrace New Zealand crew
Sperm Whale courtesty of Whale Watch Kaikoura
Mauis dolphins geographical spread courtesy of WWF
Mauis dolphin campaign logo
Mauis dolphin campaign poster

Earthrace in New Zealand

Operations Director, Earthrace / NZ Chapter Director Scott Bowman

New Zealand is slightly larger than the UK but remains a mere speck in the vast oceans, more than a thousand kilometers away from any other large landmass; it consists of two main islands, North and South Island, and several smaller ones - nowhere is more than 70 km from the sea. As a result, New Zealand has one of the longest coastlines for its size of anywhere in the world, 15,134 kilometers of it! It is surrounded by two bodies of water - the Pacific Ocean to the East and the Tasman Sea to the West (Source: Wikipedia).

New Zealand's ocean wildlife
New Zealand has a rich and diverse fauna of marine mammals. Almost half the world's cetaceans (whales, porpoises and dolphins) have been reported in New Zealand waters, including the critically endangered Maui’s dolphins and the endemic Hector's dolphins, both found nowhere else, as well as the rare beaked whales. New Zealand is also home to sea lions and the widely distributed New Zealand fur seals. Occasional visitors include other seals such as the southern elephant seal and the leopard seal, both found in larger numbers in Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters.

The populations of many species of large whales, such as southern right whales and humpback whales, and both species of New Zealand’s indigenous seals were reduced to near extinction by commercial whalers and sealers of the past two centuries. Some are still threatened or endangered, and now face additional threats from habitat degradation, global climate change, by-catch in fishing operations, entanglement and accumulation of pollutants in the oceans (Source: Department of Conservation).

In my Backyard – the battle for the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary
In view of recent events it remains to be seen whether Japan has given up whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary (SOWS) permanently. New Zealanders feel very strongly about this flagrant infringement in their own backyard, and any signs of a resumption of whaling in the SOWS would lead to an immediate response by ECO NZ and numerous other organisations worldwide.

As we all know, Pete Bethune personally helped save many whales in the SOWS in 2009 by taking part in the anti-whaling campaign and boarding the Shonan Maru#2 after it rammed his boat, the Ady Gil; his actions forced the Shonan Maru#2 to return to Japan well before the end of the whaling season. Saving the whales came at a price, as Pete subsequently spent five months in a Japanese prison.

ECO NZ Campaigns

Maui's Dolphins - so little, but not too late!
Read all about the critical state of the world's smallest dolphin - the Maui's - only found in New Zealand.

Shark Finning Campaign
Shark finning is the cruel practice of removing the fins of live sharks and then throwing the sharks back into the water to suffer a slow, painful death. It has been compared to the horror endured by an elephant solely for the removal of its tusks. The barbaric practice of shark finning is currently still legal in New Zealand.

As well as lobbying the Government of New Zealand for a change in legislation, ECO NZ is asking everyone to report any local restaurants selling shark fin soup in order to compile a countrywide map; the offending establishments will then be targeted by leafleting and other forms of vigorous but peaceful protests.