New Zealand has been criticised by the International Whaling Commission for failing to protect the critically endangered Maui dolphin.
In a report published yesterday, the commission's scientific committee stresses immediate action is needed, including the full closure of fisheries in the territories of the 55 remaining adults.
"The current management situation falls short of that required to reverse the maui's dolphin decline," it says.
At present, only set-nets are banned, in an area extending 13 kilometres offshore from Dargaville to New Plymouth and 3.7km from New Plymouth to Hawera.
If the Government heeded the IWC call, all other forms of fishing, including trawling and the use of gill nets, would be banned from Northland to Whanganui, and extending 43km from the shore.
Conservation Minister Nick Smith said he would pass the IWC advice to the species' protection committee, but was satisfied current measures were sufficient.
"If there are reliable reports of maui's dolphin outside the area of protection, I would immediately trigger a review . . . My challenge to critics of the Government policy is: Show me the maui."
Kevin Hackwell, advocacy manager for environmental group Forest & Bird, said they "were highlighting just how crucial things are at the moment".
"We have so few of these animals left that basically any one we lose that isn't natural is a really serious risk to the population."
Jeremy Helson, chief executive of Fisheries Inshore NZ, said the IWC recommendations would "more or less put most of the fishers out of business".
Because of this, policies should not be based on "speculations" that the dolphins lived outside the current restricted waters.
The report also commends the Government's actions to increase protected areas for the dolphins.
Last year's set-net ban around the Taranaki coastline drew criticism from fishermen for harming their industry, and from environmentalists for not going far enough.
- The Dominion Post
Which would you prefer?Related story: Natural burials the way to go
The cost of losing nature