Protecting dolphins 'small price to pay'

Most Kiwis would be happy to pay a "dolphin tax" to save the severely threatened Maui's and Hector's dolphins, a new survey says.

More than half of the 1000 New Zealanders asked in an independent questionnaire would be willing to pay an annual amount as a protection tax.

Of these, most said a sum of between $1 and $15 would be acceptable, while others were willing to pay more than $100 to protect our native marine mammals.

By the last Department of Conservation counts, 55 Maui's and 7200 South Island Hector's adults remain.

Numbers have been steadily dropping in recent decades.

More than a quarter of respondents to the survey, conducted by Australian sustainable economics firm Economists at Large, were unsure if they would support such a levy, while one in five would not be willing to pay the "dolphin tax".

As an alternative, almost two in three Kiwis would be happy to see a rise in the cost of buying fish at the supermarket if it reduced the number of dolphins killed.

A third would be willing to pay up to $3 a kilogram more.

Gemma McGrath of the survey commissioners Whale and Dolphin Conservation welcomed the finding New Zealanders would put their money where their conservation priorities were.

"There are other ways to fish, and these wiser ways would add outstanding value to our economy, tourism industry and recreational fishing."

The survey also found four in five people want greater protection put in place by the New Zealand Government to ensure the survival of the two dolphin sub-species.

The Dominion Post