Scientists alarmed about NZ Government lack of action over Maui's dolphins
Renewed international pressure is building on the Government to act immediately over critically endangered Maui's dolphins.
Found only in New Zealand, Maui's is the world's smallest and rarest dolphin. Some estimates put their number below 50, and scientists warn they are on the brink of extinction.
In a newly released report from the International Whaling Commission, the world's leading whale and dolphin scientists warn urgent action – rather than research – is needed. The report also criticises the Government for not doing enough.
The commission urged the highest priority should be eliminating the risk to Maui's from entanglement in set nets and trawl nets before it was too late.
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"The conclusions of this international science panel are clear: more incremental steps and more research are not good enough," Peter Hardstaff, WWF-New Zealand head of campaigns, said.
"We need action to fully protect Maui dolphins across their entire range. The Government should do the maximum possible, rather than the minimum it can get away with."
The subspecies of Hector's dolphin is only found off the west coast of the North Island, ranging from Maunganui Bluff to Whanganui.
Hardstaff said the Government had to act now by helping affected fishers transition to dolphin-friendly methods, and by extending the ban on set netting and traditional trawling to cover all of the species' known range.
The commission recommends Maui's be protected in their known habitat offshore to 20 nautical miles and inside harbours – but less than half that range is protected by fishing restrictions.
"The world is watching us, we need to do the right thing and save these dolphins," Hardstaff said.