April 27, 2023

Continuing our Campaign to Protect Māui Dolphins

At the end of November 2022, Earthrise had a big win when we obtained a preliminary injunction in our lawsuit on behalf of Sea Shepherd New Zealand and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society seeking to protect the Māui dolphin, a critically endangered dolphin found only in waters around New Zealand’s North Island. 

Photo courtesy of Sea Shepherd

We brought suit against the United States under the Marine Mammal Protection Act because commercial set net and trawl fisheries that overlap with Māui dolphin habitat result in injury and death to dolphins in excess of United States standards. Most recent estimates suggest only 48 to 64 individual dolphins over the age of one year remain, and the biggest threat to the species’ survival is bycatch in these fisheries.

Judge Gary Katzmann of the United States Court of International Trade found that Sea Shepherd is likely to succeed on two of its claims and entered an injunction immediately banning the import of nine fish species caught in Māui habitat off the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island that are caught in the set net and trawl fisheries. The preliminary import ban will remain in place until the United States makes a valid finding that New Zealand’s regulatory program for fisheries is comparable in effectiveness to the U.S. regulatory program or until the court case is resolved. Judge Katzmann also denied a subsequent motion from New Zealand to delay the implementation of the import ban until February 2023. The case is ongoing.

As always, Earthrise clinical students and fellows were instrumental to this success, including students Jenny Davies, Claire Deuter, Kassie Kometani, Amy Kraitchman, Sadie Normoyle, Jocelyn Phares, Colin Reynolds, and Caitlin Stiltner, and former Legal Fellow Danielle Replogle, who argued for the preliminary injunction before the Court of International Trade. Earthrise attorneys Allison LaPlante, Kevin Cassidy, and Lia Comerford, and Earthrise Legal Fellow Alex Houston, represent Sea Shepherd in this matter.