Moana New Zealand, Aotearoa’s largest Māori-owned seafood company, is throwing its support behind the initiative announced by WWF-New Zealand and MĀUI63, to utilise cutting edge drone technology to protect the last remaining 63 Māui dolphins.
MĀUI63 is a small group of scientists, developers, and tech experts dedicated to protecting marine life with the latest technologies. Marine mammal expert Associate Professor Rochelle Constantine, Operational Lead Willy Wang and Technical & Project Lead Tane van der Boon have been trialling, to great success, the UAV technology for the past eighteen months.
Real-time information and knowledge of the dolphins’ seasonal movements, behaviours and whereabouts will be gathered by the drones and their associated Artificial Intelligence (AI) helping scientists, regulators and all marine users in their efforts to protect Māui’s dolphins.
Flying overhead with a 50x optical zoom, the UAV can search for the dolphins for up to six hours. The technology is so sophisticated it can distinguish Māui and Hector’s dolphins from other species with a high degree of certainty.
Moana New Zealand has been collaborating with WWF-New Zealand and Sanford since 2016 when they released their first Māui Dolphin Protection Plan and earlier this year, reconvened to build on its success with the creation of Option 5, doing their part to mitigate the residual risk of fishing to Māui’s dolphins. This drone work is inspired by that but is being managed separately.
Moana New Zealand CEO, Steve Tarrant says “supporting innovation that aligns so well with our values is important. Kaitiakitanga is at the forefront of our kaupapa so when we heard about this MĀUI63 project we were very excited,”
“While neither Moana nor Sanford will be involved in the day to day implementation of this project, we knew this was something we could get behind. Part of our responsibility as kaitiaki is doing everything within our power to protect the taonga we have been entrusted with and if drone technology can help us do that alongside all of the other measures we are already taking, why wouldn’t we investigate it?,” Tarrant says.
Upon the collection of real-time information of the dolphins’ whereabouts, Moana New Zealand and Sanford both intend to implement a move on rule. This means if a vessel is alerted of a dolphin’s presence in the area, they move away from that area immediately.
Moana New Zealand is looking forward to supporting this innovative initiative further and applauds the MĀUI63 team and WWF-New Zealand for their work towards saving Māui dolphins.